Stock markets in Europe and Asia were subdued Tuesday as investors awaited comments by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen for signs on the pace of interest rate increases in the world’s largest economy.
KEEPING SCORE: Germany’s DAX was flat at 11,774 and the CAC40 of France was up 0.1 percent at 4,892. The FTSE 100 of Britain was also 0.1 percent higher, at 7,282. Dow and S&P futures both were flat, auguring a slow start on Wall Street.
YELLEN WATCH: Strong corporate earnings and expectations for business-friendly policies from Washington have propelled markets higher. But that momentum wavered as worries over possible moves on trade and currency by President Donald Trump’s administration resurfaced. Investors also were awaiting testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday and Wednesday by Yellen, who will update the Senate and House on monetary policy. Most investors expect the central bank to keep raising interest rates in 2017, though at a modest pace.
ANALYST VIEW: “A growing number of investors are worried that potential trade wars with Mexico and China could lead to tariffs and higher prices,” David Woo of Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a research note. “With many investors having loaded up on Trump trades after the elections, their willingness to continue to give the benefit of doubt to the new administration appears to be wearing thin.”
CORPORATE NEWS: Reports from companies were decidedly mixed. Japan’s Toshiba shares falling 8 percent after the company’s chairman resigned after the company projected a $6.3 billion loss for its nuclear business related to the acquisition of CB&I Stone & Webster. In Britain, engine maker Rolls Royce saw its shares fall 1.6 percent after it said the pound’s drop had cost it $5.5 billion. And in the U.S., health insurers Aetna and Humana are calling off a $34 billion deal to combine after a federal judge, citing antitrust concerns, shot down the deal.
CHINA PRICES: The consumer price index rose to a three-year high of 2.5 percent last month, pushed up by seasonal increases in demand for food and transport during the lunar new year holidays. Producer prices paid by manufacturers also rose, to 6.9 percent in January due to higher oil prices and a low base the year before. “However, we do not think the economy is solid enough to counter any broad tightening and policy makers should be careful in directing market expectations,” Betty Wang of ANZ Research said in a commentary.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 1.1 percent to 19,238.98 Australia’s S&P ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent lower to 5,755.20. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was flat at 23,702.36 and the Shanghai Composite Index held steady at 3,217.93. The Kospi in South Korea lost 0.2 percent to 2,074.57. India’s Sensex fell 0.1 percent to 28,325.44 and shares in Southeast Asia were mostly lower.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 47 cents to $53.40 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 93 cents on Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, climbed 59 cents to $56.18 a barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 113.44 yen from 113.66 yen late Monday. The euro edged higher to $1.0627 from $1.0602 and the British pound slipped to $1.2482 from $1.2528.