Global stocks mostly slipped Friday as investors awaited a speech by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen later in the day. Markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai lost ground ahead of Sunday’s opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress.
KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE lost 0.2 percent to 7,364 while France’s CAC 40 rose 0.6 percent to 4,991. Germany’s DAX dropped 0.2 percent to 12,031. Wall Street looked set for a slow start, with Dow futures flat and S&P futures down 0.2 percent.
FED WATCH: Yellen is scheduled to give a speech in Chicago later Friday. Her speech, along with jobs data next week, will give more clues to investors on whether the Fed will raise interest rates again already this month. U.S. jobless claims fell to the lowest level in decades last week, strengthening the belief that the central bank is moving closer to achieving its full employment and inflation targets, analysts said.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: Expectations are high that the Federal Reserve will raise rates this month. “If this were happening a year ago, share markets would have gone into a tailspin. But because the U.S. economy is stronger now, the Fed’s confidence in the outlook actually seems to be supporting the share market,” said Shane Oliver of AMP Capital. But he added that, “After the strong gains since the U.S. election, the likelihood of a short-term share market correction remains high.”
SOUTH KOREA: Investors dumped shares in South Korean companies that rely on trade with China out of concern Beijing may retaliate over the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system that China strongly opposes but the U.S. and South Korea say is needed as a defense against North Korea. Shares in cosmetics company Amorepacific, which has major business in China, sank 12.7 percent to the lowest level in about a year. Tourism and entertainment companies also fell.
CHINA CONGRESS: Shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai slipped ahead of the opening of National People’s Congress’ annual session. While the largely ceremonial legislature is expected to steer clear of dramatic reforms, leaders may announce new measures to rein in debt and tighten oversight of financial markets.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.5 percent to 19,469.17 while South Korea’s Kospi sank 1.1 percent to 2,078.75. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost 0.7 percent to 23,552.72 and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.4 percent to 3,218.31. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.8 percent to 5,729.60. Stocks in Taiwan, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries were also lower.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude added 13 cents to $52.74 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.22 on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 17 cents to $55.25 a barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 114.33 yen from 114.42 yen. The euro rose to $1.0564 from $1.0508.