In the US, jobless benefit claims declined by 27,000 to 341,000 in the past week, better than the median analyst forecasts of 360,000. On the other hand, concerns mounted after economic data showed that the eurozone’s GDP declined by 0.6% in 4Q compared to 3Q—and 0.9% on an annualised basis.
Moreover, Germany and France’s economy contracted 0.6% and 0.3% in 4Q respectively whilst Japan’s economy shrank 0.4% in 4Q on an annualised basis—failing to meet the expected 0.4% expansion.
In Europe, the UK’s FTSE lost 32 points (+0.5%) to settle at 6327 whilst Germany’s DAX slashed 81 points (-1.1%) to settle at 7631. France’s CAC shed 29 points (-0.8%) to settle at 3670.
In the US, the Dow Jones lost 10 points (-0.1%) to settle at 13973 whilst the S&P added a point (+0.1%) to settle at 1521. The Nasdaq climbed two points (+0.1%) to settle at 3199.
In the commodity space, oil finished higher on the back of an upbeat demand outlook after US jobless benefit claims in the past week came in better than forecast. Crude oil for March delivery added $0.30 to settle at $97.31 per barrel.
Gold fell to a six-month low due to speculation that the G-20 will reaffirm that its member nations will make a concerted effort to avert a currency war. Gold futures for April delivery declined $9.60 to settle at $1,635.50 per ounce
In the currency space, the Japanese yen finished higher against its peers after Russia’s finance minister mentioned that the G-20 should announce that it is firmly against currency manipulation.
The US dollar advanced against most of its peers on the back of uncertainties in the eurozone, as investors sought the safe-haven on the greenback.
In company news, ANZ reported a cash profit of $1.53 billion in the December quarter, up 6.2% from a year earlier. Elsewhere, Rio Tinto reported its FY12 earnings after the bell last night, revealing a 40% fall in underling profit to US$9.3 billion. The result was ahead of consensus analyst forecasts of US$9.08.
There are no major local economic data releases today.