Bucking gains across Asia-Pacific, Australian shares faltered in late trade to finish the session just in the red as the banks and consumer discretionary companies weighed. Settling at the day’s low, the S&P/ASX 200 declined almost 0.1% lower at 6174.8 — the third straight decline for the benchmark. The drop came despite modest gains by the energy and materials sectors, as well as utilities. The ASX 200 is now only just in positive territory in March, after solid gains the previous two months.
The S&P 500 edged higher intraday, led by shares of technology and energy companies, after investors got further evidence that inflation remains steady. The broad index opened higher after new data confirmed that inflationary pressures remain tame, giving some investors a reassuring sign that the Federal Reserve will continue to hold off on further interest-rate increases for now. Although most major indexes registered modest advances in midday trading, a run-up in energy stocks alongside higher oil prices, as well as ongoing strength from fast-growing tech companies, helped extend the S&P 500’s second consecutive day of gains. Still, gains were tepid, a sign of investors’ caution after the S&P 500 and other major indexes suffered their worst week of the year last week. With events like another crucial Brexit vote scheduled for later in the day, money managers said they are bracing for another bout of volatility.
Gold and U.S. oil settled higher following a delay on Comex and the New York Mercantile Exchange that resulted in both commodities seeing prices come in much later than usual. April gold climbed by $7, or 0.5%, to settle at $1,298.10 an ounce on Comex, then moved up to $1,301.80 in electronic trading. In other commodity markets, March wheat prices rose 24 cents to $4.46 1/4.
Iron Ore: 82.36s + 0.98 (April Contract)
Oil prices inched higher, bolstered by tightening Venezuelan supplies and signs that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would continue cutting output into the second half of the year, though they pared much of their early advance as analysts looked ahead to U.S. stockpile data. West Texas Intermediate futures, the U.S. oil benchmark, rose 8 cents, or 0.1%, to $56.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, posting a third climb in the past four sessions. Prices had earlier risen more than 1% and were on track for a four-month high before falling back below $57, the latest example of oil failing to stay above that level in 2019. They have risen 25% for the year, though they are still 26% below their October multiyear peaks after last quarter’s slide. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, added 9 cents, or 1%, to $66.67 a barrel on London’s Intercontinental Exchange.
The dollar edged lower intraday as investors looked ahead to a crucial Brexit vote and reacted to weaker-than-expected inflation data. The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, was recently down 0.1% at 89.97. The dollar index spent most of the overnight session in negative territory before briefly turning positive when the U.K. government’s attorney general Geoffrey Cox said a revised Brexit deal struck by Prime Minister Theresa May with the European Union didn’t alter legal risks that the U.K. could be stuck in the customs union with the bloc. British lawmakers will vote on the Brexit deal later in the day.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index finished down 0.22 point, or 0.06% to 373.25, and now is down four of the past five trading days. The index now is off 9.86% from its record close of 414.06 hit April 15, 2015. The DAX was down 19.31 points, or 0.17% 11524.17 and now is down four of the past five trading days. The FTSE 100 Index was up 20.53 points, or 0.29%, to 7151.15. It is now up for two consecutive trading days. The CAC-40 Index was up 4.29 points, or 0.08%, to 5270.25.
It was a strong day for Asian equities, following a bullish start to the week overnight in Europe and the Americas. It was a muted day in many parts of the region Monday, but gains of more than 1% have been seen in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan while the likes of South Korea, India and Singapore have climbed nearly 1%. Chinese equities also rose more than 1%, building on Monday’s stout rebound. The startup-heavy ChiNext jumped a further 2.6%, putting that white hot benchmark back at late-May levels. Malaysian stocks ended higher, tracking broad gains in Southeast Asian markets. Market breadth was positive, with gainers beating losers by 523 to 346. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index closed 0.4% higher at 1,671.28. Indonesian shares continued to retreat as foreigners trimmed their holdings further in local stocks following the rupiah’s recent
slide. The JSX index ended down 0.2% at 6353.774 with 255 losers and 151 gainers. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 1.4%, with sector giant Tencent Holdings up 1.8%, while the tech-heavy Korean Kospi was up 0.9%, boosted by a 2.3% increase for index heavyweight Samsung Electronics.