Shares fall in Europe after gains in Asia. US markets are closed for a holiday

AP , Monday 15 Jan 2024

European markets opened lower while Asian markets were mostly higher on Monday as the week got off to a mixed start.

People move past an electronic stock board showing Japan s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm Wed
People move past an electronic stock board showing Japan s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Tokyo. AP

 

U.S. markets will be closed for Martin Luther King Day, a holiday.

France’s CAC 40 lost 0.1% to 7,454.74. Germany’s DAX slipped 0.1% to 16,688.90, and Britain’s FTSE 100 shed 0.2% to 7,619.80.

The future for the S&P 500 gained 0.1%, and that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was virtually unchanged.

China’s central bank opted to keep its one-year policy loan interest rate at 2.5% on Monday while injecting funds into the financial system. That surprised market observers since it was contrary to the anticipated trend of lowering borrowing costs to stimulate the economy.

The “Policy focus has shifted to the effectiveness of monetary policy,” Zhaopeng Xing and Raymond Yeung of ANZ said in a report. “Today’s hold means the chance of an RRR (reserve ratio requirement) cut in February is higher.”

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.2% to 16,216.33, and the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.2%, at 2,886.29.

Search engine provider Baidu slumped 11.5% after a local newspaper report alleged the company's Ernie AI platform was linked to Chinese military research into artificial intelligence. Baidu said in a statement that it “has no affiliation or other partnership with the academic institution in question.”

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 on Monday briefly surpassed the 36,000 mark for the first time in 34 years, but ended the day a bit lower, gaining 0.9% to close at 35,901.79. The Kospi in South Korea was nearly flat at 2,525.99.

Ruling-party candidate Lai Ching-te emerged victorious in Taiwan’s presidential election on Saturday, a result that will determine the trajectory of the self-ruled democracy’s contentious relations with China over the next four years. The Democratic Progressive Party, to which Lai belongs, has consistently rejected China’s assertions of sovereignty over Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Taiex gained 0.2% to 17,546.82.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was virtually unchanged at 7,496.30.

On Friday, the S&P 500 edged up by 0.1%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3%, dragged down by a sharp loss for UnitedHealth Group following its results. The Nasdaq was basically flat and rose by less than 0.1%.

Stocks have been roaring toward records for months, pulling the S&P 500 within 0.3% of its all-time high, on hopes that inflation is cooling enough for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates several times this year.

Treasury yields have already sunk in the bond market on those expectations, and they fell further after a report showed inflation at the U.S. wholesale level was weaker last month than economists expected. The data bolstered expectations for rate cuts a day after another report had shown inflation was warmer at the consumer level than expected.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury eased to 3.94% from nearly 4% just before the report’s release. In October, it was above 5% and at its highest level since 2007. Easier rates and yields relax the pressure on the economy and financial system, while boosting prices for investments.

Traders are largely betting on the Fed cutting its main interest rate six or more times through 2024. That would be a much more aggressive track than the Fed itself has hinted. It's even cautioned it could raise rates further if inflation refuses to buckle convincingly toward its target of 2%. The federal funds rate is already at its highest level since 2001.

In other trading, a barrel of benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 33 cents to $72.35. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 30 cents to $77.99 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was at 145.50 Japanese yen, up from 144.92. The euro rose to $1.0955 from $1.0950.

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