Markets mute as focus turns to US Federal Reserve data
AP and AFPLONDON/HONG KONG--Markets were muted Thursday as investors geared up for a round of U.S. economic data that may well be crucial in determining expectations for next week's Federal Reserve policy meeting.
September 13, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
The likelihood that the Fed will start to reduce its huge bond-buying program has shaken markets in recent weeks. Fed officials have strongly hinted that the U.S. central bank plans to wind down its US$85 billion in monthly bond purchases as the economy improves.
The asset purchases are widely credited with holding down interest rates and breathing life into stock markets, and the investment terrain will likely endure a shake-up if and when the Fed announces a “tapering” of asset purchases. That could take place as soon as next week's meeting.
The retail sales data for August, which the U.S. Commerce Department will release Friday, will help traders evaluate the likelihood of such an announcement by the Fed.
Before those figures, traders will have weekly jobless claims figures to digest Thursday. Expectations are that the number edged up from around 330,000 from last week's 323,000.
Ahead of the figures, trading was lackluster.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was steady at 6,586 while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 8,487. The CAC-40 in France was 0.3-percent lower at 4,108.
Wall Street was poised for a subdued opening though that may change with the claims figures, which are due an hour before the bell — Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures were down 0.1 percent.
Asian markets were mostly higher on Thursday as investors took a breather after a rally at the start of the week, but Tokyo slipped on profit-taking and a stronger yen.
Hopes that the United States and Russia would be able to make a deal that will avoid a U.S.-led military strike on Syria provided buying support as markets awaited fresh trading cues.
Tokyo dipped 0.26 percent, or 37.80 points, to 14,387.27. Seoul ended flat, edging up just 0.21 points to 2,004.06, and Sydney added 0.15 percent, or 8.1 points, close to a five-year high of 5,242.5.