Opening Call: The Australian share market is to open higher.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index closed less than 0.1% lower, sealing its longest losing streak since the pandemic first roiled global markets, as the country’s most populous state extended and toughened Covid restrictions. The benchmark was 2.2% lower for the week, it’s worst since January. This was the ASX 200’s first five-day losing streak since a seven-session run that ended March 1, 2020. Financial and materials sectors, which comprise about half the ASX 200 by market capitalization, closed 0.2% and 1.0% lower, respectively.
U.S. stocks climbed on the day but ended the week with losses to conclude a bumpy stretch of trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 0.7%. The S&P 500 added 0.8% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 1.2%. Despite the day’s gains, all three indexes ended the week with declines, weighed down by steep losses among shares of economically sensitive companies like banks, materials companies and energy producers.
Gold futures ended modestly higher, with the precious metal tallying its first gain in four sessions to eke out a back-to-back weekly advance. December gold edged up by 0.05% to settle at $1,782.80 an ounce, after trading as high as $1,791. Some analysts see $1,790 as a resistance price for bullion that it has struggled to overcome recently. “The Afghanistan situation and coronavirus situation is preventing gold and silver prices from a crash,” said Chintan Karnani, director of research at Insignia Consultants.
Oil futures finished lower for a seventh-straight day, with U.S. benchmark prices losing almost 9% for the week, as worry about the impact on energy demand from the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant took a toll.
West Texas Intermediate crude for September delivery fell 2.2% to settle at $62.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest finish since May. The front-month contract marked a weekly fall of 8.9%, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
That was the biggest such loss since a more than 10% drop was reported for the week ended Oct. 30. October Brent crude, the global benchmark, lost 1.9% at $65.18 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, for a 7.7% weekly fall.
Major currencies were mixed against the US dollar in European and US trade. The Euro rose from lows near US$1.1665 to highs near US$1.1705 and was near US$1.1695 at the US close. The Aussie dollar rose from lows near US71.05 cents to highs near US71.45 cents and was near US71.35 cents at the US close. And the Japanese yen eased from near 109.56 yen per US dollar to JPY109.86 and was near JPY109.80 at the US close.
European share markets closed firmer on Friday. The retail sector led gains, up 1.2%. Shares in UK retailer Marks and Spencer rose 14.1% after it raised its profit outlook. British supermarket Morrisons agreed on a takeover offer worth 7.0 billion pounds (US$9.54 billion) from US private equity group Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. The pan European STOXX 600 index rose by 0.3%. The German Dax index also rose by 0.3% and the UK FTSE index lifted 0.4%. In London trade shares in Rio Tinto rose by 0.7% and shares in BHP lifted by 0.9%.
Stocks have been knocked back this week by fears that an uptick in Covid-19 infections and a slowdown in China’s growth could impede the economic recovery. Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average fell amid concerns over China’s regulatory clampdown and the global economic growth outlook. The Nikkei closed 1.0% lower, led by auto- and shipping-related names.
Chinese stocks ended the session sharply lower, as liquor makers dived amid market worries that regulators may tighten restrictions on the industry. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.1% while the Shenzhen Composite Index closed 1.2% lower. The ChiNext Price Index was the worst performer, shedding 2.6%, its largest one-day loss since late July.