Global markets were little changed overnight, with limited movement on either side of the Atlantic. Most U.S. stocks fell as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index snapped a seven-day rally that drove the benchmark gauge to within nine points of its record high. The Dow managed just a three point gain to settle at 14450, whilst the S&P shed four points to settle at 1552.
On the economic front, the National Federation of Independent Business said its small-business optimism index for February rose and topped expectations.
But the federation’s reading on expected business conditions remained deep in recession territory, and business owners reporting declining sales far outnumbered those saying sales increased.
Across the pond, the FTSE shed seven points to settle at 6510, whilst the German Dax lost 18 points, to close at 7966. The Stoxx Europe 600 closed less than 0.1%, as soft British data was offset by an upbeat outlook for the German economy.
Manufacturing output in the UK fell 1.5% in January, much worse than expectations for slight growth. Meanwhile, Germany’s Economy Ministry said the economy was on the verge of recovery.
Gold capped the longest rally in six months as signs of slowing growth in Europe increased speculation that central banks will expand stimulus measures, boosting demand for precious metals as a store of value.
Gold futures for April delivery climbed 0.9% to settle at $1,591.70 an ounce on the Comex in New York, the fourth straight gain and the longest rally since 21 August.
The yen rose for the first time in five sessions against the US dollar as an opposition lawmaker said his party will oppose Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Nominee Kikuo Iwata, who investors see as endorsing monetary policy easing.
Today will see the release of the latest Westpac Consumer Sentiment survey (10:30am, AEST) and home loans data (11:30am, AEST).