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Stocks

Global stocks slip over political worries in Europe and outlook for US growth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 4:40am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 4:40am

World stock prices slipped on Tuesday on concerns about the political outlook in Europe and US economic growth, while nervous investors piled into yen and low-risk US and German government bonds.

Oil prices declined on worries about global oversupply despite OPEC’s pact last week to extend its crude output cut until the first quarter of 2018.

Gold rose to a one-month high of US$1,270 an ounce on safe-haven demand before it ran out of steam.

“There is a whiff of risk aversion about the markets,” said Shaun Osborne, chief FX strategist at Scotiabank in Toronto.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, fell 0.40 point or 0.09 per cent, to 463.89.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 51.02 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 21,029.26, the S&P 500 ended 2.89 points, or 0.12 per cent, lower at 2,412.93 and the Nasdaq Composite finished down 7.01 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 6,203.19.

Recent US economic reports have supported a growing view that the world’s biggest economy is not recovering from an anaemic first quarter as vigorously as some traders had thought.

Data on Tuesday showed US consumer confidence fell in May and a gauge of core US inflation retreated on a year-over-year basis.

The lack of progress on tax cuts and other stimulus measures from Washington has also weighed on the outlook for company profits and broader economic activity, analysts said.

“There has been some softness in US economic data, and there are some less market-friendly policies in the US on the margin,” said Stephen Wood, chief market strategist with Russell Investments in New York.

Most Federal Reserve policymakers have not backed away from their expectations of two more rate increases by the end of 2017, as they see the US economy near full employment and are confident inflation would reach the Fed’s 2 per cent goal.

However, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said on Tuesday a rate hike may occur soon, while the central bank may want to refrain from further increases if inflation remains soft.

In Europe, elections in Italy may come as early as September after the 5-Star Movement became the fourth big party to back a switch to a proportional electoral system.

Greece’s debt problems also continued to simmer after it failed to reach a deal on the next instalment of its bailout programme earlier this month.

Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index shed 0.22 per cent at 1,533.66.

With worries about the United States and Europe, the yen strengthened against the dollar and euro. It was up 0.4 per cent at 110.74 yen per dollar, and up 0.2 per cent at 123.91 yen per euro.

Safety bids lowered the 10-year US Treasury yield to 2.212 per cent, the lowest in more than a week, and the 10-year German yield was at 0.286 per cent, the lowest in over five weeks.

In commodities markets, Brent crude was last down US$0.45, or 0.86 per cent, at US$51.84 a barrel. US crude settled down 14 cents, or 0.28 per cent, at US$49.66 per barrel.

Spot gold prices were last 0.3 per cent lower at US$1,262.75 an ounce.

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