Australian stocks fared worst in Asia Pacific, with a seven-day winning streak coming to a sudden stop. As regional equities have struggled for direction following the latest run of gains, the S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.8% at 6232.8. The energy sector fell 1.9% amid weakness in coal prices. Health care lost 1.3% and REITs slid 1.5%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed intraday as President Trump prepared to meet top Chinese officials in Washington to resolve the continuing trade dispute, a major investor concern amid doubts around growth in the world’s leading economies. The blue-chip index advanced 93 points, or 0.4%, to 26312, driven by gains in trade-sensitive stocks such as materials-science firm Dow and aerospace giant Boeing, which added 4.3% and 2.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 ticked down 0.2% as losses in technology shares kept gains in industrial stocks in check. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 0.5%.
Gold futures settled slightly lower, but pared a much sharper decline as financial markets awaited an update on reported progress in trade negotiations between the U.S. and China and as an upbeat reading on jobless benefits claims fueled expectations for a recovery in monthly hiring in a report due Friday. June gold closed $1, or less than 0.1%, lower at $1,294.30 an ounce. The metal had hit an intrday low at $1,284.90 an ounce as the dollar gained some altitude. One measure of the greenback, the ICE U.S. Dollar Index, was up 0.2% at 97.31. For the week, gold is headed for a decline of about 0.3%, based on the most-active contract. In other commodity markets, May wheat prices fell 1/4 cent to $4.70 3/4.
Iron Ore: 91.45s + 0.44 (May Contract)
Oil prices settled lower, reversing earlier gains as traders weighed government data showed a rise in supplies. Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled down 0.6% at $62.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 0.1% to $69.40. On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude oil inventories increased by 7.2 million barrels in the week ended March 29, in contrast to analyst expectations for a 500,000-barrel decline.
The dollar rose slightly intraday, boosted by strong U.S. employment data. The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, was recently up 0.1% at 90.20. Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., decreased by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 202,000 in the week ended March 30, the Labor Department said. That was the lowest level for initial claims since Dec. 6, 1969. The data comes ahead of Friday’s U.S. employment number, which many market participants see as an important indicator of the economy’s health. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect the Labor Department to report that employers added a seasonally adjusted 175,000 jobs during March, while the unemployment rate held at 3.8%. The euro was down 0.1%. The dollar was up 0.1% against the Japanese yen.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index ended down 1.05 points, or 0.27%, to 387.87, the largest one-day point-and-percentage decline since March 25. The FTSE 100 index was down 16.34 points, or 0.22%, to 7401.94, the largest one-day point-and percentage decline since March 25. France’s CAC-40 index was down 5.11 points, or 0.09%, to 5463.80, the largest one-day point-and-percentage decline since March 27. And the DAX managed to shake off the gloom to rise after data showed Germany’s industrial downturn accelerated, finishing up 33.61 points, or 0.28%, to 11988.01. It is now up for six consecutive trading days.
Most Asian stock markets followed America’s overnight lead and finished close to Wednesday’s final levels. But that wasn’t the case in China, where equities ended a holiday-shortened week with more strong gains. Big caps led the market with a rise of about 1%, leaving the Shanghai Composite Index at another one year high. Beyond China, Hong Kong will be closed Friday for a holiday; Taiwan started its break after posting a fourth-straight weekly gain Wednesday, the longest run since the start of 2018. Chinese stocks ended a holiday-shortened week of 5% gains with another round of Asian stock outperformance, continuing to undo 2018’s damage. After big gains since the start of February, the Shanghai Composite this week broached year-earlier levels. It climbed 0.9% to 3246.57, notching another one-year best as large-caps outperformed. Meanwhile, the Shenzhen Composite rose 0.45% and the startup-heavy ChiNext added 0.5%; both are merely at levels last seen in late May. Korean stocks were higher for most of the day despite Asian equities lacking broad direction after a streak of wide advances. The Kospi logged its first five-day winning streak since January, rising 0.15% to 2206.53.