LONDON – Global stock markets traded in narrow ranges Monday as investors awaited a key meeting of central bankers later this week and continued to monitor developments on the Korean peninsula.
KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was steady at 7,326 while Germany’s DAX fell 0.3 percent to 12,132. France’s CAC 40 was 0.3 percent lower at 5,100. U.S. stocks were poised for a similarly tepid opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures unchanged.
KOREA DRILLS: On Monday, U.S. and South Korean forces started their annual joint military exercises, which are taking place in the wake of heightened tension between the U.S. and North Korea. Pyongyang has in the past responded to the drills with weapons tests and a string of belligerent rhetoric. Last year, North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile that flew about 310 miles in the longest flight by that type of weapon. Days after the drills, the North carried out its fifth and biggest nuclear test to date.
ANALYST TAKE: “Should North Korea respond in kind, then we could see a repeat of the safe haven rush from a couple of weeks ago when the situation previously flared up between the countries,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.
MOUNTAIN MEETING: Central bank officials from around the world will be gathering for an annual three-day conference at a mountain resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, starting Thursday. Investors will be scrutinizing remarks from policymakers including Fed chief Janet Yellen and European Central Bank head Mario Draghi for any hints on the future direction of interest rates and economic stimulus programs, which will have implications for global stock markets.
MAERSK SALE: French oil company Total agreed Monday to buy Danish conglomerate AP Moller-Maersk’s oil business for $7.45 billion, in a deal that will strengthen its position in the North Sea. Investors in AP Moller-Maersk, which is restructuring to become an integrated transport and logistics company, cheered the deal, with the company’s share price up 4 percent at 13,260 Danish kroner on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Total’s share price in Paris, however, was unchanged at 42.58 euros.
CHINA/CHRYSLER: Chinese SUV maker Great Wall Motors is considering making a bid to buy Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep unit, spokespeople for the company said Monday, in a possible ambitious new step onto the global stage for China’s fast-growing auto brands. Great Wall has yet to formally declare its interest in Jeep, but a possible acquisition would be in line with chairman Wang Jianjun’s goal, announced in February, of becoming the top specialty SUV producer by 2020. Great Wall shares rose 1.6 percent in Hong Kong, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV gained 2.8 percent in Milan.
ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent to close at 19,393.13 and South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.1 percent to 2,355.00. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.5 percent to 27,179.39 and the Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5 percent to 3,286.91. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent to 5,725.90.
ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude oil futures rose 16 cents to $48.67 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, was unchanged at $52.72 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: Trading in currency markets was similarly lackluster. The euro was steady at $1.1764 while the dollar fell 0.2 percent to 109.02 yen.