Markets remain solid despite French downgrade

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2012 1:06 PM
Markets remain solid despite French downgrade

PARIS (AP) — Hopes that Greece will get its next batch of bailout cash to avoid bankruptcy helped shore up markets Tuesday despite a downgrade of France's credit rating.

Finance ministers from the euro countries are meeting in Brussels and the expectation is that they will agree to the release of more bailout money to Greece.

Markets have been awaiting a decision on whether Greece will get the next batch of rescue loans for weeks as the country's creditors decided whether it has implemented the required reforms. Athens depends on the money to pays it day-to-day bills, and it could run out of cash if it doesn't get the €31.5 billion ($40 billion) loan payment soon.

"Indications from some of the policy makers associated with today's eurozone talks have indicated that an announcement is imminent and could be provided after the stock markets close," said Joshua Mahony, research analyst at Alpari.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares reversed earlier losses to finish 0.2 percent higher at 5,748.10. Germany's DAX rose 0.7 percent to 7,172.99 while the CAC-40 index in Paris ended 0.7 percent higher at 3,462.06.

The euro was also buoyant, trading a further 0.2 percent higher at $1.2805.

Earlier, European markets were hobbled by Moody's decision to strip France of its prized AAA rating on Monday, citing its limited prospects for growth and exposure to the crisis that has forced several countries into bailouts.

Moody's cited France's exposure to the crisis — and its own struggles with implementing reforms to restore the competitiveness of its economy — in its decision to downgrade its credit rating.

Ahead of Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, investors were also focusing on a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in which he warned lawmakers in Congress and the Obama administration to strike a budget deal to avert tax increases and spending cuts that could trigger a recession next year.

Without a deal, the measures known as the "fiscal cliff" will take effect in January, but there have been encouraging signs in recent days that a deal will be agreed. That has helped stocks rally strongly over the past couple of trading days.

Trading levels in the U.S. will inevitably fall off ahead of Thursday. Analysts said that could prompt some traders to reduce their exposure to some trades ahead of the four-day weekend.

In the U.S., trading was less perky, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 0.1 percent at 12,781 and the broader S&P 500 index more or less unchanged at 1,386.

Earlier, Asian stocks were mostly down. Japan's Nikkei 225 index edged down 0.1 percent to close at 9,142.64. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 21,228.28 while South Korea's Kospi added 0.6 percent to 1,890.18.

Mainland Chinese shares also ended down on lower trading volumes, analysts said. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.4 percent to 2,008.92 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.2 percent to 799.35.

The price of oil meanwhile fell sharply Tuesday on signs that Israel and Hamas are close to putting a halt to fighting that has lasted nearly a week. The benchmark New York rate was down $2.71 to $86.48.