US shares were mostly weaker on Friday night, with the S&P500 opening the new year with two consecutive losses – the first such time in nine years.
The mixed performance on Wall Street was triggered by conflicting messages from two key central bank officials regarding stimulus.
Although Ben Bernanke issued a defence of the Fed’s accommodative monetary policy, Philadelphia Fed President, Charles Plosser, earlier warned interest rates may need to rise aggressively to ward off a surge in inflation.
The Dow climbed 29 points (+0.2%) to 16470, whilst the S&P500 shed one point (-0.1%) to 1831 and the Nasdaq let go of 11 points (-0.3%) to 4132.
Overall, it turned out to be a successful holiday period for global markets, which rallied particularly strongly during the final weeks of 2013.
Gold added 1.1% to US$1239 an ounce – its highest settlement in a month, as the uncertainty surrounding Fed stimulus tapering lured investors attracted by the metal’s safe haven appeal.
Elsewhere, oil ended a horrendous week in which it tumbled more than 6%. Crude was pressured by a likely increase in Libyan production and data showing further gains in weekly US oil inventories.
The euro was the big loser in currency markets, dropping to a one month low against the greenback ahead of this week’s European Central Bank meeting.
There is no major economic data due for release today.