Global Markets Overview - 04/20/2012

By : Subscribe to Christine's | April 20, 2012 5:00 AM IST

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FROM MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD:

U.S. STOCK MARKETS:

Stocks slid for a second straight day as a trio of disappointing economic readings outweighed better-than-expected earnings reports from Travelers and others. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 69 points, or 0.5%, to 12964.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index shed 8.2 points, or 0.6%, to 1377, and the Nasdaq Composite ticked down 24 points, or 0.8% to 3008.

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The information technology and industrials sectors led the S&P 500 lower amid downbeat labor, housing and manufacturing readings. Just three of the Dow's 30 components rose.

Travelers gained 3.7% and Verizon Communications added 1.3% after both reported first-quarter results that topped analysts' projections. General Electric edged 0.2% higher ahead of its results Friday morning.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was higher than expected, a sign of lost momentum in the labor market. Mid-Atlantic manufacturers saw business conditions this month decline more than anticipated.

Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. fell in March for the second consecutive month and missed expectations. But the index of leading economic indicators in March posted the sixth increase in a row and edged out economists' forecasts.

The Federal Reserve said banks will have two years to bring their activities in line with the "Volcker rule" before regulators start enforcing it. The formal statement was aimed at calming bank fears that they would be forced to act before a July deadline.

Other companies reporting earnings included eBay, which saw shares jump 13%, for the biggest increase among S&P 500 components, after the online auctioneer reported first-quarter earnings and revenue that topped forecasts.

Qualcomm slid 6.6% after the mobile chip maker reported fiscal second-quarter results that exceeded expectations, but provided a third-quarter earnings outlook that was below projections.

Apple fell 3.4% amid concerns of potential component shortages and slowing iPhone sales based on comments in Qualcomm's and Verizon's results.

EUROPEAN STOCK MARKETS

European stock markets ended in the red and Spain's 10-year government bond yield rose as concerns about the country's debt problems rumbled on.

In an auction that was seen as a critical test of foreign investors' willingness to buy Spanish debt, Madrid sold EUR2.54 billion ($3.3 billion) of two- and 10-year bonds, just above the upper end of the range the government had targeted, but the yield on the 10-year bond came in higher than at the previous auction.

Spain's benchmark IBEX 35 finished 2.4% lower at 6908.10. Jeremy Batstone-Carr, chief economist and strategist at Charles Stanley, said that the initial sigh of relief after the auction results was short-lived.

Market participants attributed the auction's success to the fact that relatively little debt was on offer.

The Stoxx Europe 600 closed down 0.5% at 256.51.

France's CAC 40 index closed 2.05% lower at 3174.02, and the German DAX ended down 0.9% at 6671.22.

London's FTSE 100 fared significantly better than its peers, ending flat at 5744.55.

Market talk in the afternoon that France's credit rating could be lowered added to investors' jitters, although government officials said they hadn't been notified of any potential downgrades.

Economic news from the U.S. failed to turn the market around and European stocks also ignored encouraging first-quarter results from big U.S. companies.

On the corporate front, Nokia fell 3.6% following the release of its first-quarter results. The company posted an operating loss of EUR1.34 billion, compared with analysts' estimates for a EUR731 million loss.

French advertising and communications company Publicis slid 4.1% despite posting a 13% rise in first-quarter revenue, and saying it expects stronger growth in the second half of the year.

Banks were also lower, with Societe Generale SA down 5.2%, Credit Agricole SA down 4.3% and BNP Paribas SA down 4.8% in France. In Germany, Commerzbank AG slipped 2.4% and Deutsche Bank AG fell 2.1%. Among Spanish banks, shares of BBVA SA shed 4.5% and Banco Santander SA gave up 3.6%.

ASIA-PACIFIC STOCK MARKETS

Asian stock markets ended mixed Thursday as investors adopted a conservative approach in the run-up to Spain's bond auctions.

The Nikkei Stock Average declined 0.8%, Korea's Kospi fell 0.2%, and the Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.1%.

On the plus side, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.0%. Europe-focused exporters were under pressure in Asia as investors continued to fret over euro-zone debt problems, while sentiment was cautious before the Spanish debt sale.

Esprit Holdings fell 1.2% in Hong Kong, and Honda Motor lost 0.9% in Tokyo. Japanese-listed commodity firms also declined, after oil prices fell below $103 a barrel in New York Wednesday. Shares of JX Holdings Inc. and Inpex Corp. both lost 0.8%.

But commodity-linked firms advanced in Hong Kong, with Cnooc up 1.6%, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. 1.7% higher, and PetroChina up 1.2%. In Seoul, techs were mostly weaker, tracking U.S. losses for the sector, with LG Electronics Inc. falling 2.5%, though heavyweight Samsung Electronics Co. managed a 1.1% rise.

In the Japanese technology sector, Hitachi gained 2.5% after the Nikkei reported the company would be helping Russia improve its electric grid. Nippon Sheet Glass dropped 6.9% after its chief executive officer resigned on strategy grounds, according to reports.

COMMODITIES

Base metals closed mostly higher on the London Metal Exchange Thursday, despite soft U.S. data, although copper finished the day flat after struggling to take any clear direction in thin-volume trading.

While weaker-than-expected U.S. economic reports, including high weekly jobless claims and a fall in housing sales, weighed on investor sentiment, base metal prices largely drifted throughout the session, traders said.

Oil futures crept lower Thursday, weighed down by a disappointing reading on U.S. jobless claims that raised worries about the economy of the world's biggest oil consumer, while gasoline futures sank to their lowest level since February.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled 40 cents, or 0.4%, lower at $102.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange recently gained 3 cents to $118.00 a barrel. Front-month May reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 4.86 cents, or 1.5%, lower at $3.1541 a gallon, its lowest level since Feb. 29.

Gold's early rally waned, leaving prices to end marginally higher, as investors weighed disappointing U.S. employment data against the possibility of another round of monetary stimulus. Gold for June delivery, the most-actively traded futures contract, settled $1.80, or 0.1%, higher at $1,641.40 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the session, gold had touched highs of $1,654.90 an ounce.

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