Australian stocks rose slightly to outpace declines in much of Asia, with the heavily weighted financials offsetting declines in materials. That sector’s drops occurred despite industry major Rio Tinto rising 1.1%, hitting 10-year highs after the release of its fourth quarter report. The ASX 200 rose 0.3% to close at 6169, putting February’s gain at 5.2% — the most since July 2016. Financials rose 0.8%, capping an 8.1% February jump after six straight months of declines, and logging a six-year peak. Health care jumped 2.6%, while materials lost 0.8%.
U.S. stocks slumped for a third straight session intraday as investors parsed data that showed U.S. economic growth softened in the final three months of 2018 and an early end to the U.S.-North Korea summit. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 20 points, or 0.1%, to 25961. The S&P 500 lost 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite fell less than 0.1%. All three major averages are on course to close out February with gains of at least 3.2%. The Dow industrials and S&P 500 are both up 11% in 2019, on pace for their best-ever start to a year since 1987, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Market participants sorted through fourth-quarter growth figures, which showed a slowdown in consumer spending offset a pickup in business investment. Gross domestic product-a measure of how much the U.S. produces in goods and services-rose at a 2.6% annual rate in October through December, adjusted for seasonality and inflation, the Commerce Department said. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 2.2% reading.
Gold prices settled at a two-week low, giving up earlier gains in the wake of an abrupt end to the U.S.-North Korea denuclearization talks, with a stronger-than expected reading on the U.S. economy contributing to the metal’s loss for the month.
Iron Ore: 81.69s + 0.92 (April Contract)
U.S. benchmark oil prices rose toward fresh three-month highs as investors continued to focus on a report showing a large and unexpected drop in U.S. inventories of crude oil. West Texas Intermediate futures, the U.S. oil standard, ended 0.5% higher at $57.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That’s just shy of Friday’s closing level of $57.26 a barrel, which was the highest since Nov. 12. Prices ended February with a 6% gain, and are now 26% higher so far this year. But they’re 25% lower from an October peak of $76.41 a barrel. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell by 0.5% to $66.03 a barrel on London’s Intercontinental Exchange.
The dollar rose against emerging-market currencies intraday, after data showed a slowdown in China’s manufacturing sector deepened this month. The dollar was recently up 0.6% against the Brazilian real and gained 0.9% against the South African rand while rising against a broad range of other emerging-market currencies. Activity in China’s critical manufacturing sector slipped to its lowest level in three years in February, weighed down by weak global demand and the long Lunar New Year holiday. China is a key destination for commodities and other products exported by many developing countries. Worries over a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy pushed some investors out of comparatively risky emerging-market currencies and into the dollar.
The Europe Stoxx 600 Index was up 0.22 point, or 0.06%, to 372.80 on the day, and was up 14.13 points, or 3.94%, for the month. The index now is up 35.15 points, or 10.41%, over the last two months. Germany’s DAX was up 28.31 points, or 0.25%, while the FTSE 100 closed in the red after a broad based sell-off in consumer, energy and mining stocks weighed heavily on London’s top-flight index.
Asian stocks slipped for a third straight day after U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks abruptly ended without a deal and weak economic figures pressured Asian indexes. Equities sold off across most of the region, amid confusion in Vietnam after U.S. President Trump appeared to cut short a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as the parties failed to reach an agreement on curbing the Asian country’s nuclear-weapons program. Japan’s Nikkei index had already closed 0.8% lower on fresh growth fears, with industrial production figures for January falling short of the market’s already-low expectations. Gloomy economic data also pressured Chinese stocks, with the Shanghai Composite Index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng both down 0.4% as official manufacturing purchasing managers index figures contracted for a third consecutive month. South Korean assets dropped, with the Kospi benchmark down 1.8% and the country’s currency down 0.5% against the U.S. dollar. Kospi-listed construction and equipment stocks — which are sensitive to the prospect of a closer economic partnership between the North and South–were hit particularly hard. Meanwhile, Indian shares failed to hold on to early gains as investors remained cautious amid border tensions with Pakistan. The S&P BSE Sensex closed 0.1% lower at 35,867.44, after rising as much as 0.5% during the day’s trade.