Market Update & Important Indicators:
Losses in financial shares weighed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average Wednesday, a pause in a post-election surge that had helped lift major U.S. indexes to records. Stock moves have been muted this month. The S&P 500 has yet to drop more than 1% in a trading day since the November election, the longest stretch of the sort since 2006, according to Bespoke Investment Group. Investors say they have been weighing recent improvements in earnings and economic data against elevated valuations and an uncertain political landscape on both sides of the Atlantic. That has left major stocks stalled in recent weeks as many await policy moves before extending bets on tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks that have helped send major indexes to fresh highs after the election. Financial shares were among the biggest decliners in the S&P 500 Wednesday, falling 1%. Corporate earnings gains remained a factor keeping stocks level despite volatility elsewhere in financial markets, some analysts said.
European stocks finished modestly higher as the Stoxx Europe 600 closed up 0.3% to 363.94, but the basic materials, financial and oil and gas sectors were pulled lower. The regional benchmark is roughly flat so far this week after falling Monday and gaining Tuesday. The Stoxx 600 Oil and Gas Index shed 0.2%, in part as oil prices slumped for most of the European session following industry data late Tuesday showing a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. weekly inventories in an already oversupplied market. U.S. government data out Wednesday afternoon showed a surge in supplies, to 13.8 million barrels compared with expectations of a rise of 2.5 million barrels, but oil prices managed to shake off earlier declines of more than 1% as European equity trading closed.
Markets in Asia inched higher Wednesday as upbeat corporate results fuelled appetite for stocks. Asian markets recovered from early losses, with the Nikkei Stock Average closing up 0.5%, as strong earnings results offset a stronger yen. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.6% amid a surge in the share price of stock-exchange operator Hong Kong Exchanges, while stocks in mainland China recovered to add 0.4%.
Australian shares notched up their strongest advance in a week as banks led a broad recovery that more than offset weakness in energy companies along with a slide in oil prices. Ending near its highs, the S&P/ASX 200 gained 29.5 points, or 0.5%, to hit 5651.4. It was only the third positive finish for the index in the last eight sessions, as global political uncertainty weighed on a rally into the back end of 2016 following the U.S. election. The four largest banks and Macquarie collective added almost 15 points to the ASX 200 as the financial sector recovered some of the ground lost since mid-January. Taking some steam out of the market, the energy sector lost 1% after crude prices fell further in Asian trade after a larger-than-expected increase in U.S. supplies reinforced views that American producers will counter efforts to reduce global oil supplies.
On the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months was up 1.3% at $5,868/t. All other base metals were up on Wednesday. Aluminium prices rose 0.9% at 1,830/t, lead prices rose 1.9% at 2,388/t, nickel prices rose 1.4% at 10,443/t, tin prices rose 0.5% at 18,990/t and zinc prices rose 2.0% at 2,850/t.
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