Market Update & Important Indicators:
U.S. stocks ticked lower intraday as major indexes have been stuck in a holding pattern over the past few sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 19 points, or less than 0.1%, to 20,935 intraday. The S&P 500 edged down 0.1% while the Nasdaq Composite fell less than 0.1%. Continuing the downtrend was the U.S. gold price which also fell 0.8% to 1,215 US$/oz. The Federal Reserve is slated to meet March 14-15 and is widely expected to raise short-term borrowing costs. Fed-fund futures tracked by CME Group suggest an 84% chance of a rate rise next week. The Labor Department will release U.S. employment figures for the month of February on Friday, the last major piece of economic data the Fed will consider ahead of its meeting.
European stocks slipped, dampened by downbeat data from Germany, the continent's largest economy, before the European Central Bank issues a policy update later this week. The Stoxx Europe 600 ended down 0.3% at 372.27, extending Monday's 0.5% loss. The fall marked the fourth loss in a row for the pan-European benchmark, with equities largely pulling back after last week hitting their highest level in a year. With little on the economic or earnings calendar to steer market direction, many investors are focused on upcoming global central bank meetings. The European Central Bank will conclude its monetary policy meeting this Thursday, with investors looking to gauge when it will start winding down, or tapering, its EUR2.3 trillion ($2.4 trillion) bond-purchase program.
Asian shares were mixed in light volumes. Japan's Nikkei fell 0.2% as the yen remained firm against the dollar, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.4% and the Shanghai Composite gained 0.3%. China's foreign-exchange reserves unexpectedly rose for the first time in eight months in February, returning to above the $3 trillion mark, according to data released by the People's Bank of China. Meanwhile, Thailand's benchmark index extends losses, as the market ended in the red for the third straight session. Indonesian shares ended slightly lower, as investors are bracing for the Federal Reserve's almost-certain rate increase. The JSX index edged down 0.1% at 5402.62.
Australian shares ended modestly higher for a second straight day, after the central bank left interest rates unchanged and ahead of U.S. jobs data that could cement expectations short-term rates there will increase in March. It was the fourth positive finish for the local market in the past 13 sessions. Amid broad gains outside the materials sector, the S&P/ASX 200 rose 14.9 points, or 0.3%, to 5761.4. The four largest banks, among the biggest stocks in the ASX 200, collectively added almost 7 points to the index. As expected, the Reserve Bank of Australia held its benchmark cash rate at a record low 1.5% and offered little indication it was likely to cut again. Although the central bank pointed to worrying trends in the housing market, it was broadly upbeat about the economy and saw little need to offer additional help after a recent rebound in growth.
The London Metal Exchange's three-month copper contract closed down 1.45% at $5,773/t. The other base metals were mainly lower on Tuesday. Zinc prices fell 1.7% to $2,685/t, lead prices fell 0.5% to $2,229/t, tin prices fell 0.3% at 19,363/t and nickel prices fell 4.1% at 10,589/t. Aluminium prices finished flat for the day at 1,866/t.
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