Market Update & Important Indicators
Shares of industrial and materials firms pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 lower for the third straight session Wednesday, as investors weighed new signs that protectionist trade policies could spread. Stocks had come under pressure earlier in the month as investors worried that U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium could hurt firms that use the metals to manufacture goods. And some are concerned that other countries might retaliate, slowing international trade and eventually weakening global economic growth. While the White House appeared to soften its initial stance on trade policy last week, helping stocks recoup some of their losses, stocks and bond yields came under pressure Wednesday after the Commerce Department signalled that few product exclusions to the tariffs would be granted to U.S. firms. Germany's newly re-elected chancellor, Angela Merkel, also said the European Union needs to respond with one voice to the U.S. tariffs and shouldn't be afraid to impose its own trade measures if necessary. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was recently down 1% after opening higher. The S&P 500 dropped 0.6%, while the Nasdaq Composite declined 0.24%. The U.S. gold price traded slightly lower overnight, finishing down 0.1% at 1324.20 US$/oz.
European stocks closed lower, with the Stoxx Europe 600 ending down 0.15% at 374.94. German shares outperformed, however, with the DAX ending up 0.1%. France's CAC 40 ended down 0.2% and the FTSE 100 was down 0.1%. Adidas led the pan-European index higher after posting a fourth-quarter net loss due to a one-off negative tax effect but upgraded its long-term profitability target.
Stocks in Asia fell Wednesday following a downbeat session on Wall Street. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.9% as minutes from the Bank of Japan's January meeting, released Wednesday, showed that some board members warned the central bank should keep a close eye on unexpected side effects from the current monetary policy. In China, better-than-expected economic data raised the spectre that the central bank might be forced to raise interest rates to keep growth from overheating. The Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.6% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.2%, as financial and tech stocks lagged behind.
Real estate was an underperformer among Australian equities today, resulting in a 2nd-straight drop for the country's stock benchmark. At least today the S&P/ASX 200 had plenty of company amid across-the-board declines after a pullback in the US and Europe overnight. The index fell 0.7% to 5935.30, trading in a rather tight range most of the day following its early slide. The financial sector slid 0.8% while REITs were off 1%.
The London Metal Exchange’s 3-month copper contract traded higher overnight, gaining 0.6% to close at $6,988/t. The other base metals finished mixed. Tin prices closed flat at 21,208/t, whilst Zinc prices slipped 2.1% to close at 3,223/t. Aluminium prices fell 0.6% to close at 2,069/t. Lead prices were stronger again, adding 0.6% to 2,407/t, whilst Nickel prices pulled back 0.4% to finish at 13,780/t.
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