Stocks subdued ahead of Wall Street return

AP News
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Posted: Jul 05, 2011 8:06 AM
Stocks subdued ahead of Wall Street return

Global stock markets pushed modestly higher Tuesday as investors awaited a raft of U.S. economic data this week that culminates with closely-watched payrolls figures.

Now that concerns over an imminent Greek debt default have been dampened by the Greek Parliament's vote to back fresh austerity measures, investors are turning their gaze to more fundamental economic issues, such as the state of the U.S. economy.

A run of U.S. economic data this week ends with Friday's June nonfarm payrolls data, which often set the market tone for a week or two after their release.

There's little scheduled news to excite Wall Street traders on their return from the long Independence Day weekend, but the economic newsflow will pick up Wednesday with the release of the monthly non-manufacturing survey from the Institute for Supply Management.

Last week's ISM manufacturing survey came in much better than anticipated, stoking hopes that the recent soft patch in U.S. economic data may have only been a temporary blip associated with the devastating earthquake in Japan.

Should the upcoming economic data and the U.S. second-quarter earnings come in strongly, a number of analysts think stocks will rally in the months ahead, especially if European debt worries ease.

"In the second quarter, global equities were negatively impacted by a series of global macro events which have bruised investor sentiment and left equity valuations looking very reasonable against long-term benchmarks," said Tony Shepard, an analyst at Charles Stanley, a London-based brokerage.

Ahead of Wall Street's return later, trading has been fairly light.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.2 percent at 6,030 while Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent to 7,465. The CAC-40 in France was 0.3 percent lower at 7,466.

Wall Street was poised for modest gains at the open _ Dow futures were up 0.3 percent at 12,554 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures rose 0.2 percent to 1,337.

Not all the attention will center on the U.S. this week, though.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank is expected to raise its main interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.5 percent, its second hike since April as it tries to rein in above-target inflation levels.

Figures released Tuesday showed the difficult position the bank is in. Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said retail sales in the 17 countries that use the euro dropped by 1.1 percent during May _ another sign that the eurozone economy is slowing down sharply from a largely export-based rebound.

That contributed to some weakness in the euro currency, which has rallied lately on confirmation that Greece now has enough money to see it through the summer. By late morning London time the euro was 0.4 percent lower at $1.4480.

Developments over Greece will continue to be monitored and have the impact of turning market sentiment. On Monday, a rally in stocks came to a halt after Standard & Poor's warned that a plan for French banks to rollover the debts would be considered a Greek debt default.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose narrowly to 9,972.46, a two-month closing high.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.8 percent to 2,161.75 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.1 percent to 22,747.95.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1 percent to 2,816.36 and the Shenzhen Composite Index added 0.6 percent to 1,195.83 despite mounting speculation that the People's Bank of China may raise interest rates soon.

There was similarly lackluster trading in the oil markets. Benchmark oil for August delivery was up 44 cents at $95.38 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.