World markets subdued as S&P heads for 1,100

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2009 6:28 AM

European stock markets rose modestly Thursday as investor optimism was dented by a subdued performance in Asia. Wall Street was expected to retreat after the Standard & Poor's 500 index failed to close above 1,100 the day before.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 11.67 points, or 0.2 percent, at 5,278.42, while Germany's DAX rose 7.03 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,675.38. The CAC-40 in France was 2.13 points, or 0.1 percent, higher at 3,816.52.

Wall Street was poised for a fairly subdued opening after a lackluster finish on Wednesday _ Dow futures were down 20 points, or 0.2 percent, at 10,239 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures fell 2.3 points, or 0.2 percent, at 1,094.

On Wednesday, the S&P closed at 1,099, its highest level since October last year, though it had traded even higher earlier in the session.

Ben Potter, a research analyst at IG Markets in Australia, said "it's going to be a sustained break past 1,100 on the S&P that will offer the final reassurance that this is no bear market rally."

Stocks have rallied strongly since March's lows with many of the world's major indexes trading at, or near, their highest levels this year as investors reined in their economic doomsday expectations to factor in a swifter than anticipated global economic rebound.

Figures Friday are expected to confirm that the 16 country eurozone has joined the United States in officially being out of recession despite some laggards, such as Spain. Data earlier showed that Spain contracted a further 0.3 percent in the third quarter from the previous three month period.

Weekly initial U.S. jobless claims will be in focus when Wall Street opens, as will earnings from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which will give an indication into the state of the U.S. consumer. Without the help of the consumer, who accounts for around for 70 percent of the U.S. economy, any global economic recovery will be modest.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dropped 67.2 points, or 0.7 percent, to 9,804.49, while Hong Kong's Hang declined 229.64, or 1 percent, to 22,397.57. South Korea's Kospi slid 1.4 percent to 1,572.73

In mainland China, Shanghai Composite index reversed an early gain to dip 0.1 percent at 3,173.2.

In Australia, Australia's S&P/ASX200 benchmark fell 0.2 percent to 4,747.9 even though the government reported a large increase in jobs last month, with the number of people employed rising by 24,500 in October. Still, the jobless rate rose to 5.8 percent, showing the pace of job creation was lagging the number of people looking for work.

Though another sign Australia's economy was rebounding, the news put pressure on the country's central bank to raise interest rates again. The Australian dollar rose strongly as a result, hitting its highest point this year at 0.9369 against the dollar.

Oil prices hovered above $79 a barrel in Asia, with benchmark crude for December delivery down 3 cents to $79.25. The contract added 23 cents.

Gold prices continued their swing higher, rising 40 cents at $1,115.20 an ounce.

The dollar slipped 0.1 percent to 89.77 yen while the euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.4953.

Much of the focus in the currency markets at the moment is on whether China is planning to make the yuan more flexible after indications from the People's Bank of China that it is ready to allow its currency to rise just days ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama.

"China cannot rush the transition to a fully convertible exchange rate for fear of undermining its own banking system but the pressure to take steps towards this goal is mounting," said Jane Foley, research director at Forex.com.

"An appreciation in the yuan will relieve pressure on the real effective exchanges rates of Japan and the eurozone which are presently bearing the brunt of the dollar's downward adjustment," Foley added.

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Associated Press Writer Malcolm Foster in Tokyo contributed to this report.