Global stocks paused after a recent run of gains Thursday, a day after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s meeting signaled uncertainty about the strength of the economy and officials took a wait-and-see attitude to future interest-rate increases.
In Europe, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.1% in opening trade, dragged down by a 1% fall in its basic-resources sector. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 notched the region’s sharpest decline, falling 0.5%, with energy provider Centrica slumping 11% after it reported earnings.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January meeting released Wednesday showed unanimous agreement among officials to hold off on future interest-rate rises until a clearer picture on the state of the U.S. economy could be seen, though some members acknowledged the economic outlook was more uncertain since their previous meeting. They also indicated a readiness to stop reducing the central bank’s $4 trillion asset portfolio this year.
U.S. stocks had edged higher after the minutes were released. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both rose 0.2%, the third consecutive session of gains for the indexes. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite edged 0.1% higher, an eighth consecutive advance.
Indexes in Asia were positive for most of the day, though gains in Chinese markets reversed in the closing minutes, leading the Shanghai Composite and Shenzhen indexes to close down 0.3%. Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.6% and Australia’s ASX 200 closed up 0.7%.
Hopes for a positive outcome from the current U.S.-China trade negotiations remained high after President Trump signaled he would be flexible on the March 1 deadline for an agreement. Midlevel U.S. and Chinese negotiators having been holding meetings this week. Cabinet-level officials are set to join the discussions later on Thursday.
For European investors, Brexit remained a key focus, with just over a month to go until the U.K. formally leaves the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May met with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker Wednesday, and the two said talks had been “constructive” but no firm commitments were made that could end an impasse in the U.K. parliament.
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The British pound was recently up 0.2% against the U.S. dollar to $1.3075. In the U.S., futures put major indexes on course for opening gains, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 all up 0.3%. Investors there were watching for earnings from Bunge Ltd. , Kraft Heinz Co. , Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Baidu.
The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the dollar against a basket of 16 currencies, was up 0.1%. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasurys rose to 2.664% from 2.652% on Wednesday. Yields and prices move in opposite directions
In commodities, gold was sharply lower, after three consecutive sessions of gains. Gold futures were down 0.7%. Oil was higher ahead of the Energy Information Administration’s announcement of the latest U.S. inventories data with Brent crude 1% higher at $67.08 a barrel.