Stocks in retreat in run-up to Fed minutes

AP News
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Posted: Apr 03, 2012 10:04 AM
Stocks in retreat in run-up to Fed minutes

Stock markets in the U.S. and Europe gave up some of their previous session's gains Tuesday in the run-up to the latest minutes from the last rate-setting meeting of the Federal Reserve.

A positive U.S. manufacturing survey from the Institute for Supply Management had helped stocks recover as Wall Street opened on Monday, pushing the Dow Jones industrial average, for example, up to its highest close since December 2007.

The buying momentum carried through into the Asian session but came to a halt in Europe session and failed to recover when Wall Street opened.

With little on the calendar, trading is expected to remain fairly muted ahead of the next batch of U.S. economic news, in particular the release of the Fed minutes. Last week, stocks rallied in the after Fed chief Ben Bernanke indicated that the central bank will retain its super-loose monetary policy for a while.

"Caution now persists as we wait for today's economic data, which is concentrated in the U.S.," said Ben Critchley, a sales trader at IG Index. "As well as factory orders for February, the latest set of Fed minutes will be released, and the bulls will be hoping that the wording of the meeting will reveal a continued accommodative stance."

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.1 percent at 5,869 while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.5 percent to 3,446. Germany's DAX was down 0.1 percent at 7,050.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index was down 0.1 percent at 13,247 while the broader S&P 500 index fell 0.2 percent to 1,416.

The U.S. will likely remain the main focus in the markets all week, though a long four-day Easter weekend in much of Europe, starting Friday, may limit the impact of monthly U.S. nonfarm payrolls data on that day. The payrolls figures often set the market tone for a week or two after their release.

Trading was equally subdued in the currency markets, with the euro down 0.1 percent at $1.3318.

Earlier, stocks in Asia mostly rallied on the back of the previous session's gains in Europe and the U.S.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.3 percent to 20,790.98, while South Korea's Kospi added 1 percent to 2,049.28. But Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.6 percent to close at 10,050.39, as a strengthening yen threatened to cut into the profits of exporters that depend heavily on overseas sales. Mainland China markets are closed for public holidays.

Oil prices edged lower alongside equities, with the benchmark New York rate down 45 cents at $104.78 a barrel.

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Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.