Global stocks mixed on upbeat US data, rate hike prospects

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SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of – Global stocks were mixed Thursday as investors took profit amid expectations that the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates more aggressively than expected following upbeat U.S. economic data.

KEEPING SCORE: European markets got off to a weak start with Britain’s FTSE 100 down 0.4 per cent to 7,272.37. France’s CAC 40 fell 0.3 per cent to 4,911.83 while Germany’s DAX slipped 0.2 per cent to 11,770.07. Futures augured a tepid start on Wall Street. Dow futures lost 0.1 per cent while S&P futures also dipped 0.1 per cent.

ASIA’S DAY: Asian markets closed mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.5 per cent to 19,347.53 while South Korea’s Kospi edged down 0.1 per cent to 2,081.84. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.5 per cent to 24,107.70 and Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 per cent to 3,229.62. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.1 per cent to 5,816.30. Stocks in Taiwan and Indonesia were lower but in Singapore and the Philippines they were higher.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “After another good run on Wall Street, the attention turns to Asian markets to assess if the global rally can be sustained,” Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore, said in a daily commentary. “Asian markets could once again see some profit-taking in today’s session.”

US ECONOMY: On Wednesday, reports of stronger retail sales and inflation showed that the U.S. economy was stronger than expected. Consumer prices rose 2.5 per cent in January from a year earlier, the highest rate since March 2012. Inflation at the consumer level was the highest in years. The data give the Federal Reserve more encouragement to raise interest rates, and economists said the possibility is increasing that it may happen at the central bank’s next meeting in March.

SAMSUNG: Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong attended a court hearing in a bid to avoid his arrest for a second time. South Korean prosecutors investigating a massive corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye suspect that the Samsung heir bribed the president and her friend to win government favours, an allegation that Samsung denies. Investors weren’t immediately concerned by the possible arrest. Shares of Samsung Electronics rose 0.8 per cent to 1,901,000 won in Seoul.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 113.67 yen from 114.02 while the euro strengthened to $1.0635 from $1.0615.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 4 cents to $53.15 per barrel. The contract finished 9 cents lower at $53.11 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, was up 15 cents at $55.90 a barrel in London.

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