Friday 15 December 2017

World shares and euro edge up as storm-hit Wall Street re-opens

WORLD shares and the euro edged up today as a storm-hit Wall Street began trading after its two-day closure and investors looked ahead to economic data later in the week.

In early trading the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.6pc at 13,187.23 points, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.4pc to 1,417.75 points.

However, with transport into and around New York City limited and wide-scale power outages making it hard for many traders to work from home, volumes were expected to be thin.

Investors were also standing back from the markets ahead of some major data releases, including October surveys of manufacturing activity in China and the United States on Thursday and the monthly U.S. jobs report on Friday.

Caution has also increased over the tight U.S. presidential election race as Tuesday's vote nears, with traders trying to assess its implications for resolving the fiscal problems facing Washington, which could stall the economic recovery.

"Until we get to the other side of the election, the other side of payrolls and the other side of this mess in New York, the market is going to think twice about taking risk of any significant size," said Ned Rumpeltin, head of G10 FX strategy at Standard Chartered Bank.

The euro rose 0.3 percent against the dollar to $1.2990, its strongest in nearly a week, though still within the $1.28 to $1.32 range seen since mid-September.

The MSCI world equity index was up 0.2 percent at 329.80 points; it remains on track for its first monthly loss since May but has gained over 10 percent so far this year.


The outlook for the European single currency was clouded by uncertainty over when Spain may apply for a bailout - a move that would allow the European Central Bank to buy its bonds - and over whether Greece will agree to more austerity measures and reforms. But the euro gained support on Wednesday from some improving economic data across the region.

Euro zone inflation eased as expected in October thanks to slower growth in energy prices, while German retail sales rose in September at their fastest pace since June 2011, reinforcing a view that private consumption will remain a pillar of support for the economy.

Consumer spending in France also inched up 0.1pc September, rebounding from a 0.8pc fall in August, though most analysts had expected better.

However, unemployment is still an unfolding disaster in the euro zone, with 146,000 more people joining the ranks of the jobless, which have swelled to 18.49 million, or 11.6pc of the workforce of the 17-nation currency bloc.

"The euro-zone unemployment rate looks set to rise further, placing more pressure on struggling households," said Ben May, European economist at Capital Economics.

European stocks did manage to add to their solid gains for the month thanks to some good earnings reports, though uncertainty over the reaction on Wall Street to the economic impact of super storm Sandy was also keeping many investors sidelined.

The FTSE Eurofirst index of top European shares was up 0.2pc at 1,107 points, bringing its gains for the year to date to over 10.5pc after five straight monthly rises.

Germany's DAX index gained 0.6pc, due in part to strong profits by airline Lufthansa, but London's FTSE 100 fell following an 18-pc share price drop for oil and gas firm BG Group after it said it did not expect its production to grow at all next year.


In the oil market, the after-effects of Sandy on the U.S. east coast were still being assessed, with reduced fuel demand expected as roads and airports remain shut, even as refineries in the region slowly resumed operations.

"We may have a rapid return of supply, but the demand will be slower to recover," said Tony Nunan, a risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp.

Brent crude for December delivery was up 30 cents at $109.38 a barrel, while U.S. crude for December rose 57 cents to $86.25, still on track for the biggest monthly loss since May.

Trading of oil, natural gas and other commodity futures and options run by the CME Group at the NYMEX world headquarters in New York resumed on Wednesday, but the U.S. Energy Department has delayed its weekly petroleum inventory report by a day to Thursday.

Gold inched up 0.6pc to $1,720 an ounce, but it, too, is on course for its biggest monthly decline since May, at more than 3 percent.

Mitsui Precious Metals analyst David Jollie said gold was likely to remain in a narrow range in the near term due to uncertainty before next week's U.S. election.

"People are not keen to add risk to their portfolios ahead of that," Jollie said.


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