Aussie stocks rebounded from midday lows but still saw its four-day winning streak come to an end amid declines in much of Asia Pacific. With generally moderate drops in the region, the ASX 200 fell 0.3% to 6199.3 following Monday’s six-month high. Materials shed 0.6% and consumer discretionary lost 0.85%. But consumer staples climbed 0.9% and REITs added 0.55% to log a 2 1/2-year high.
U.S. stocks edged higher intraday, a day after major indexes suffered their worst drop in nearly a month on lingering concerns about global growth and the health of the domestic economy. Newly published data mollified some fears about the U.S. economy, and U.S. stocks pared earlier losses following the releases. Solid earnings results from Kohl’s and Target also helped boost retailers’ stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 33 points, or 0.1%, in recent trading, after earlier falling as much as 94 points. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite gained 0.1% and 0.2%, respectively. Among the upbeat economic news, sales of new homes rose in December, the Commerce Department said in a report that had been postponed because of the partial shutdown of the federal government.
Gold futures finished lower to tally a seventh straight loss, the longest streak of daily declines in two years, as strength in the dollar and a lower economic growth forecast for China dulled demand for the precious metal. China lowered its growth forecast to between 6% and 6.5% for this year. April gold fell $2.80, or 0.2%, to settle at $1,284.70 an ounce, with prices based on the most-active contract again finishing at the lowest since Jan. 24, according to FactSet data. A loss for gold marked seven consecutive losses, the longest stretch of declines since the nine-session fall ended March 10, 2017, according to Dow Jones Market Data. In other commodity markets, March wheat prices rose 7 1/2 cents to $4.54 1/4.
Iron Ore: 84.10 + 0.91 (April Contract)
U.S. oil prices declined slightly, sticking to a narrow trading range as stock markets move sideways and investors awaited weekly government data on U.S. oil inventories. West Texas Intermediate futures, the U.S. oil standard, ended 0.1% lower at $56.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was closed 0.3% higher at $65.86a barrel on London’s Intercontinental Exchange.
The dollar ticked higher intraday following the release of better-than-expected U.S. service-sector data. The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, was recently up 0.3% at 90.08. The dollar got a boost when the Institute for Supply Management said its nonmanufacturing index tracking a range of U.S. industries including health care, finance, construction and agriculture-rose to 59.7 in February from 56.7 in January. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a reading of 57.2. A number above 50 indicates expansion, while a figure below 50 signals contraction. The new data added to the impression that the U.S. economy is on solid footing-something that has benefited the dollar in recent sessions.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index ended up 0.55 point, or 0.15%, to 375.64, up now for four consecutive trading days. The index is up 3.06 points, or 0.82%, over the last four trading days — the largest four-day point and percentage gain since Feb. 25. The FTSE 100 Index was up 49.04 points, or 0.69%, to 7183.43, the largest one-day point and percentage gain since Feb. 20. The DAX ends 0.24% higher at 11620.74 — up 28.08 points to 11620.74, and is now up nine of the past 11 trading days. Meanwhile, the CAC-40 Index was up 10.95 points, or 0.21% to 5297.52 — up for four consecutive trading days.
While Asian stocks generally posted moderate declines as some markets pulled back from multimonth highs, China’s equities continued to seemingly defy gravity. Small caps soared anew, with the ChiNext’s 3.5% jump putting its surge for the past 17 days at 37%. Still, it’s 6.6% below year-earlier levels. Large Chinese companies also posted stock gains, helping Hong Kong equities to rise slightly as markets on both sides of the border hit fresh nine-month highs. India, after a holiday weekend, is the only other locale in Asia sporting gains. Declines elsewhere were 0.5% or less except for Indonesia, where its stock benchmark was nearly 1% lower. Japan’s Nikkei 225 was down 0.4% and the South Korean Kospi was down 0.5%. The uptick in China also came despite the National People’s Congress announcing a cut to Beijing’s official growth target, down from 6.5% to between 6% and 6.5%. Seemingly contradictory messages from Beijing — the government has vowed to continue deleveraging the economy while simultaneously pursuing supportive stimulus measures — have left investors less gloomy about the prospects of the world’s second largest economy. Indian shares extended gains for the second straight session as auto and bank stocks helped. The S&P BSE Sensex closed 1.1% higher at 36,442.54.