World stocks wobble as investors grow cautious over outlook

AP – World shares were mostly lower yesterday after Wall Street wobbled to a nearly flat finish, though the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite still logged record highs.

Most Asian markets were closed to mark the Lunar New Year.

Investors are hoping for a new round of United States (US) government aid as the economic recovery falters. The latest US government report on jobless claims reaffirmed that employment remains a weak spot in the economy, even as vaccine distribution ramps up in the hopes of eventually ending the pandemic.

Germany’s DAX lost 0.5 per cent to 13,969.12 and the CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.3 per cent to 5,654.03. Britain’s FTSE 100 declined 0.6 per cent to 6,487.02. Wall Street looked set for a slow start, with the futures contracts for the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials down 0.3 per cent.

In Asian trading, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1 per cent lower, to 29,520.07 and the A&P/ASX 200 declined 0.6 per cent to 6,806.70. India’s Sensex lost 0.2 per cent to 51,427.04.

Weak economic data are serving to “fog up the glass”, Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

“Global markets continue to trade mixed echoing that sombre data view as participation remains muted, suggesting that investors need a bit more cajoling by more all clear economic smoke signals on the horizon before getting back in the saddle,” Innes said. Investors had been encouraged by solid corporate earnings and signs of a decline in new virus cases.

A man looks at screens showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index and companies’ stock prices at a securities firm in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

Another day of choppy trading on Wall Street left the major US stock indexes nearly flat on Thursday, though the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite still snagged all-time highs.

The S&P 500 rose 0.2 per cent to 3,916.38. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped less than 0.1 per cent to 31,430.70 a day after setting a record high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.4 per cent, to 14,025.77. Its previous all-time high was Tuesday.

Small company stocks notched gains. The Russell 2000 index added 0.1 per cent to 2,285.32. The index is up 15.7 per cent so far this year, while the S&P 500 is up 4.3 per cent.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes was steady at 1.15 per cent after touching 1.20 per cent earlier this week.

Democrats in Congress are working on a potential USD1.9 trillion relief package that would include direct payments to people and more jobless aid as unemployment remains stubbornly high.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 793,000. The job market improved somewhat last summer but has slowed since the fall. Nearly 10 million jobs have been lost to the pandemic.

In other trading, US benchmark crude lost 59 cents to USD57.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up 44 cents overnight to USD58.24. Brent crude, the international standard, shed 56 cents to per cent 60.58 per barrel.

The US dollar rose to JPY105.00 from JPY104.75. The euro slipped to USD1.2108 from USD1.2131.