Stock markets were subdued and the price of oil and gold rose Wednesday as geopolitical risks kept investors on edge ahead of a long weekend.
KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.2 percent to 5,113 and Germany’s DAX added 0.1 percent to 12,150. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent to 7,357. U.S. indexes were poised to open slightly lower, with Dow and S&P 500 futures down 0.1 percent.
GLOBAL GLOOM: Investors are cautious as world events this week complicate the investment outlook. Tensions are rising over North Korea, which threatened the U.S. against making any military moves after Washington ordered an aircraft carrier to head toward the divided Korean Peninsula. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow with the aim of getting Russia to ditch its ally Syria following last week’s chemical attack. France’s election later in the month is also giving investors a reason to hunker down and avoid taking any big risks.
QUOTEWORTHY: Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, noted that investors are likely to remain cautious as a long weekend approaches. “The safety first theme is likely to continue,” he said.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index tumbled 1 percent to 18,552.61 after the dollar fell under 110 yen for the first time in five months, pressuring the country’s exporters. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng reversed its losses in the final hour of trading, rising 0.9 percent to 24,313.50, while the Shanghai Composite in mainland China lost 0.5 percent to 3,273.83. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 percent to 5,934.00 and South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.2 percent to 2,128.90.
TROUBLED TOSHIBA: Shares of the Japanese electronics maker extended losses, falling more than 2 percent after it raised doubts about its ability to survive as a company. In an unaudited financial report, the company said there are “material events and conditions” that make it questionable whether it can continue as a going concern.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to a five-month low against the yen as investors seeking security amid global uncertainty piled into the Japanese currency, which is traditionally seen as a haven. The dollar weakened to 109.60 yen from 110.94 yen late Monday, the first time it has broken below the 110 level since mid-November. The euro was roughly flat at $1.0602.
PRECIOUS METAL: Gold, another asset sought by nervous investors, continued to gain, rising $2.20 to a five-month high of $1,276.00 an ounce.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude extended its rally. Oil rose 22 cents to $53.62 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 32 cents on Thursday, its sixth gain in a row. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, was up 26 cents to $56.49 a barrel.