Global stocks meander at quarter's end

AP News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2015 9:12 AM
Global stocks meander at quarter's end

LONDON (AP) — European stock markets drifted Tuesday despite further evidence of a burgeoning economic recovery across the 19-country eurozone. Trading, as is often the case at the end of the quarter, was impacted by traders looking to close out positions to make their books look as healthy as possible.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France's CAC 40 was flat at 5,081 while Germany's DAX fell 0.2 percent to 12,058 and the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.4 percent lower at 6,861. Wall Street was poised for modest losses at the open with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.2 percent.

EUROPE HEALING: Hopes that the current bout of deflation across the eurozone could be over much sooner than anticipated were raised by figures showing that the annual fall in prices in March was only 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, the EU's statistics office Eurostat also revealed that unemployment across the region fell to 11.3 percent in February and a near three-year low.

ANALYST TAKE: In spite of that double dose of positive news out of the eurozone, stocks meandered and many analysts said trading was impacted by the quarter's end. "With the quarter-end upon us it is not surprising to see a general air of indecision envelop markets," said Chris Beauchamp, senior market analyst at IG.

US DATA SLEW: With Friday's nonfarm payrolls data for March looming, there's an increasing focus on U.S. economic figures as investors ponder when the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates. The main release later is likely to be the monthly consumer confidence report from the Conference Board.

CHINA FACTOR: While traders ponder when the Fed will start raising rates, in China people are wondering whether Beijing will sanction another economic stimulus. Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, indicated last weekend that the world's No. 2 economy had slowed "a bit too sharply," suggesting additional government measures might be coming.

ASIA'S DAY: Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2 percent to 24,900.89 while China's Shanghai Composite Index declined 1 percent to 3,747.90 after surging the day before. Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 1.1 percent to 19,206.99. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.5 percent to 2,041.03 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.8 percent to 5,891.50.

ENERGY: U.S. oil was down $1.05 to $47.63 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down $1.12 to $55.17 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell 0.9 percent to $1.0722 while the dollar was flat at 120.09 yen.