US, Europe indexes nearly steady, Asia mixed
US equities hovered in mostly narrow ranges for a second day Wednesday with a better showing for mega-caps in quiet, consolidative trading. The Dow Jones industrial average was flat while the S&P 500 firmed 0.2 percent and the NASDAQ eased 0.1 percent.
Markets appeared on edge before the release of Federal Open Market Committee minutes Wednesday afternoon amid concerns the recent run of strong economic results would lead to less generous policy, but the minutes showed policy makers had maintained their patient stance, and comments from other Fed policy makers Wednesday underlined their cautious view.
Among sectors, communications services, technology, and energy fared best. Lagging were materials, led down by chemicals, with industrials and health care weak too. Mega-caps outperformed, with Apple up 1.3 percent, Amazon up 1.7 percent, and Google up 1.1 percent.
Among companies in the news, travel stocks popped up after the Centers for Disease Control said cruises could resume in the summer; Carnival rose 1.4 percent and Royal Caribbean 0.3 percent. Rising oil prices helped energy stocks, with driller Haliburton up 0.8 percent.
Among materials, chemicals maker Albemarle declined 6 percent and Sherwin-Williams, the paint company, fell 2.8 percent amid profit-taking after recent strength.
These price data reflect observations at 4:00 PM US ET: Dated Brent spot crude oil rose 27 cents to US$63.04 while spot gold declined US$5.03 to US$1,737.04. The US dollar rose vs. most major currencies. The US Treasury 30-year bond yield rose 3 basis points to 2.36 percent and the 10-year note yield rose 1 basis point to 1.67 percent.
Equities were narrowly mixed Wednesday with the UK outperforming on a weaker pound and better Covid-19 news. The Europe-wide STOXX 600 and the German DAX both eased 0.2 percent, the French CAC was flat, and the FTSE-100 rose 0.9 percent.
Sentiment in Continental European markets was dampened by a more concerning Covid-19 picture and slower progress on vaccines, though expectations remain intact for vaccines to roll out across Europe in the second quarter. In contrast, markets see the UK on track for faster reopenings after positive comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.
AstraZeneca, down 1.2 percent, led health care stocks lower after European authorities warned of possible blood clotting from AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine. Other laggards included technology, travel & leisure, chemicals, autos, and industrials. Holding up best were real estate, insurance, banks, basic resources, utilities, and oil & gas.
Among stocks in the news, French asset manager Amundi rose 2.9 percent after entering an agreement to buy rival asset manager Lyxor. Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell rose 1.2 percent on its first-quarter update. On the downside, IGAS energy, the UK driller, fell 5.5 percent on disappointing earnings, while Scandic Hotels declined 3.5 percent on an analyst downgrade.
Major Asian equities were mixed Wednesday on a quiet news day, with Covid-19 worries and more talk about policy tightening dampening Chinese markets while recovery expectations boosted Japan and Australia.
Chinese markets sagged with the Shanghai composite off 0.1 percent and the CSI composite down 0.7 percent. Speculation continued that China's recovery would spur more restrictive government policy, with sentiment also hurt by news of rising Covid case counts across Asia. Growth underperformed value, and sector performance was split with consumer staples lagging the most. Hong Kong markets sold off on their return from an extended holiday, with the Hang Seng down 0.9 percent. Tech stocks led the decline, with Lenovo down 4.1 percent and Tencent down 3.8 percent.
Japanese markets edged up as investors focused on hopes for global recovery, powered by US spending. The Nikkei was up 0.1 percent and the Topix up 0.7 percent. Most sectors rose, with value stocks beating growth. Materials, transport, and banks led the winners while pharma lagged the most.
Reopening hopes propelled Australian stocks on US fiscal stimulus and faster vaccine rollouts, with the All Ordinaries index up 0.6 percent. Gains were across the board, as technology stocks continued to rally and energy stocks recovered from recent declines. Consumer discretionary stocks rose on a rally in gaming stocks and as travel stocks climbed on news of a New Zealand-Australia travel bubble.
Among Asian companies in focus, Toshiba rose 18 percent after receiving a takeover offer from the UK's CVC Partners. Renesas, the Japanese chipmaker, rose 2.3 percent after announcing its plans to recover from a fire at one of its facilities. JD.com, the Chinese online retailer, fell 3.5 percent after pulling its fintech unit IPO. Korea's Samsung Electronics eased 0.6 percent after in-line results.
On Thursday in Asia/Pacific, Hong Kong PMI figures are due. In Europe, reports are scheduled for German manufacturers' orders, French merchandise trade, UK PMI construction, and Eurozone PPI. In North America, Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak, plus US jobless claims figures are due.
Global Stock Market Recap
Global Bond Market Recap
Global Currency Recap
Commodities and currencies
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