Business World

Sunday 17 December 2017

Fears for US and Greece force world shares down

Richard Hubbard

WORLD shares edged down for a fourth day today as concerns about a potential US fiscal crisis and Greece's bailout dented optimism over global growth.

Adding to the uncertainty, Japan reported that its economy shrank 0.9pc in July-September from the previous quarter, pointing to a mild recession in the world's third-largest economy.

"Investors remain consumed by US fiscal cliff consequences, and this is capping market enthusiasm," said Tim Waterer, senior trader at CMC Markets.

Since the US elections, the investors have worried that the return of the status quo in Washington will make it difficult for lawmakers to reach the compromises needed to avoid a "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year when nearly $600 billion worth of spending cuts and tax increases kick in.

The MSCI world equity index, which was down 0.1pc at 322.80 points on Monday, has lost about 2pc since President Barack Obama's re-election and the Republican Party retained its majority in the House of Representatives.

European shares were little changed.

Export data out of China suggesting that seven straight quarters of slowing growth may have ended provided some support however, the positive data was offset by weak bank loan figures.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was steady at 1,096.85 points, having dropped 1.6pc last week. London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX traded between 0.2pc up and 0.1pc lower.

US stock index futures pointed to a similarly mixed open on Wall Street, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.15pc, Dow Jones futures up 0.03pc and Nasdaq 100 futures down 0.1pc.

A green light for the Greek government's 2013 budget from the parliament in Athens on Sunday had little impact on the euro , which hovered at $1.2705 to the dollar and is not far from the two-month low of $1.2690 hit on Friday.

The budget vote, and another on an austerity package last week were conditions for unlocking the next tranche of aid from Greece's international bailout.

Markets are looking ahead to a euro zone finance ministers' meeting later in the day for signs the money will be released.

The pressure for a deal on Greece is growing because Athens has to redeem €5 billion worth of treasury bills this week and had been counting on cash from the next aid tranche to help cover that.

Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said at the weekend that the troika of international lenders had not yet finished its report on the bailout programme.

"I think we've seen too many finance ministers' meetings over the course of the last two or three years to have any great expectations," Peter Dixon, global equities economist at Commerzbank, said.

The uncertainty over the Greek aid talks and the US fiscal worries supported German government bonds, with German 10-year yields steady at 1.34pc.

European credit markets were also fairly flat with the iTraxx main index, made up of 125 investment-grade bonds, 0.5 basis points wider at 132 basis points.

US bond markets were closed today for the Veteran's Day public holiday.

Commodities were mixed, with Brent oil trading around $109 per barrel and US crude sliding under $86 a barrel, while gold edged up to $1,734 an ounce, near a three-week high of $1,738.


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