World markets stay cautious ahead of US, China reports
AP and AFP
March 8, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
MUMBAI/HONG KONG--World stock markets were muted Friday as investors turned cautious ahead of the release of a key U.S. employment report and Chinese economic indicators.
European markets opened mostly down. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 4,410.34 and Germany's DAX was down 0.7 percent to 9,475.37. The CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.2 percent to 4,410.34.
Wall Street was poised for an uninspiring open, with Dow Jones and S&P 500 futures both little changed ahead of the February employment report due out later Friday. The payrolls data often set the market mood for a week or two.
Asian markets mostly rose on Friday and the dollar held on to its New York gains after better-than-expected jobs data raised hopes for a strong payrolls report later in the day.
Tokyo rose 0.92 percent, or 139.32 points, to 15,274.07 and Sydney added 0.30 percent, or 16.4 points, to 5,462.3 while Seoul finish flat, edging down 0.94 points to 1974.68 owing to a late sell-off.
Shanghai edged a touch lower, dipping 1.67 points to end at 2,057.91 while Hong Kong eased 0.19 percent, or 42.48 points, to 22,660.49.
In the United States, the Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to a three-month low of 323,000 from the prior week's revised reading of 349,000. Analysts had expected the claims to fall to just 338,000.
The figure was a "sign companies are holding on to their staff even as cold weather threatens to slow the world's largest economy," said Spreadex analyst Lee Mumford.
It also provided hope that Friday's closely watched non-farm payrolls report for February will show a sharp improvement from the previous two months, which came in well below forecasts owing to a severe winter snap across most of the country.
The S&P 500 rose 0.17 percent to a record high and the Dow added 0.38 percent, but the Nasdaq dipped 0.13 percent.
Draghi Upbeat on Eurozone
U.S. shares lost much of the gains after U.S. President Barack Obama laid down a tough challenge to Moscow's support for a referendum in Ukraine's Crimea on joining Russia.
The ex-Soviet state is in danger of breaking apart after Crimea's parliament unanimously voted to join Russia, in a sharp escalation of the worst East-West security crisis since the Cold War.
However, global investors remain upbeat, and buying sentiment was given further support after the ECB held interest rates unchanged and its head, Mario Draghi, gave an optimistic appraisal of the economy.
"A gradual recovery in domestic and external demand is expected to be the driving factor behind the projected increase in activity," Draghi said, after the ECB raised its 2014 growth forecast by 0.1 percentage point to 1.2 percent.
Gold fetched US$1,348.20 an ounce at 0820 GMT compared with US$1,335.26 late Thursday.