US growth downgrade weighs on world markets

AP News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2009 9:08 AM

European stock markets and Wall Street futures gave up earlier gains Tuesday after figures showed that the U.S. economy grew less than previously estimated in the third quarter.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 41.39 points, or 0.8 percent, at 5,335.38 while Germany's DAX rose 15.29 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,945.82. The CAC-40 in France was 18.95 points, or 0.5 percent, higher at 3,891.01.

Wall Street was poised to open higher _ Dow futures were up 33 points, or 0.3 percent, at 10,375 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures rose 3.8 points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,112.

However, European markets and Wall Street futures had been trading even higher before the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.2 percent in the third quarter.

That was way down on its previous estimate of 2.8 percent made just a month ago and stoked concerns that the recovery in the world's largest economy may not be as strong as anticipated in the markets.

The data, though, is backward-looking and investors may get a better idea of how the recovery is progressing by November existing home sales figures later, especially as the U.S. housing market was one of the main reasons why the world slid into recession. The consensus in the markets is that they ticked up a further 3.3 percent to around 6.3 million units.

This week's gains have come as something of a surprise as many analysts were anticipating a modest pullback as investors shut up shop for the year by booking profits accumulated during the nine-month bull market.

However, confidence surrounding the global economic recovery has continued to grow. That has been most evident in a raft of corporate deals but also in Tuesday's announcement that the British economy did not contract as much as previously thought during the third quarter _ the country's statistics office said the British economy shrank by only 0.2 percent in during the July-September period, lower than its previous estimate of 0.3 percent.

"Keeping sentiment positive was the latest revision of the UK GDP figure for the third quarter," said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index.

"The way stock indices are moving at the moment _ although it is admittedly in low volumes _ we could yet see a move to fresh highs before 2009 is out," he added.

Earlier, Japan led Asia's advance as the yen continued to fall against the dollar _ a lower yen makes Japanese exports more competitive, all other things being equal. Nissan Motor Co., for example, ended over 6 percent higher.

The Nikkei 225 stock average jumped 194.56, or 1.9 percent, to close at a three-month high of 10,378.03.

By early afternoon London time, the dollar was up a further 0.3 percent on the day at 91.36 yen _ a marked advance from the 14-year low of 84.81 yen as recently as November.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 143.94, or 0.7 percent, to 21,092.04 and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.7 percent to 1,655.54. Singapore's market was up 1.2 percent, Australia's index advanced 1.5 percent and Taiwan shares rose 0.9 percent.

But China's main market dived more than 2 percent amid fears the government will take steps to slow other sectors of the economy after vowing to control rising property prices. The Shanghai index slid 2.3 percent to 3,050.52 with losses led by real estate shares.

Elsewhere, the euro was 0.2 percent higher at $1.4306, having earlier fallen to a three and a half month low of $1.4267.

The dollar has bounced back from 15-month lows against the euro in the last three weeks amid mounting expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start withdrawing its extraordinary liquidity measures and raising interest rates sooner than expected. The euro has been dogged by concerns over the economic situation in a number of European countries.

Oil fell back towards the $73 a barrel after oil cartel OPEC kept production levels unchanged.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was down 63 cents at $73.76 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.