World shares decrease after Wall Avenue document on stimulus hopes

Beijing, December 18

Global stock markets and the US futures were mostly lower Friday after Wall Street hit a new high on optimism over economic stimulus and coronavirus vaccine development despite a spike in US unemployment claims.

Markets in Shanghai, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Hong Kong advanced while London opened higher.

Overnight, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index gained for a third day on optimism about progress in Washington toward a new economic aid package while the government reported the highest level of new jobless claims in three months.

Market action suggested investors see “bad data is good news” for progress toward a stimulus, Mizuho Bank said in a report.

Also Friday, Japan’s central bank extended an emergency loan program by six months and left monetary policy unchanged, as expected.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.1 per cent to 6,556.19 while the DAX in Frankfurt shed 0.2 per cent to 13,645.27. The CAC 40 in France sank 0.2 per cent to 5,537.04.

On Wall Street, the future for the S&P 500 lost 0.1 per cent and that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 0.2 per cent.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 0.6 per cent and the Dow gained 0.5 per cent. The Nasdaq added 0.8 per cent.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.3 per cent to 3,394.90 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo sank 0.2 per cent to 26,763.39. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 0.7 per cent to 26,498.60.

The Kospi in Seoul gained less than 0.1 per cent to 2,772.18 while Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 sank 1.2 per cent to 6,675.50.

India’s Sensex was off less than 0.1 per cent at 46,889.23. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets retreated.

Investors have been waiting since before the American presidential election on November 3 for US lawmakers to agree on new aid to replace unemployment benefits that are expiring. That loss in income undercuts consumer spending that powers the biggest global economy and demand for imports from Asian and other suppliers.

The Labour Department reported the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose to 885,000 last week, the highest level since September.

Progress in developing and distributing coronavirus vaccines has helped buoy optimism that the US economy might start to recover next year.

The Democrats and the Republicans in Congress are locked in a fight divided by party lines over the size and scope of an aid package at a time when the economy is showing fresh signs of stalling due to pressure from the pandemic.

Investors received more encouragement from the Federal Reserve, which helped shore up the markets early in the pandemic.

The central bank has again pledged to keep buying bonds until the economy makes substantial progress. Still, the Fed has said it can only do so much to tide over the economy and that more financial support from Washington is critical for a continued recovery.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude lost 1 cent to $48.35 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 54 cents on Thursday to $48.36. Brent crude, the price standard for international oils, declined 4 cents to $51.46 per barrel in London. The contract rose 42 cents the previous session to $51.50.

The dollar rose to 103.58 yen from Thursday’s 103.11 yen. The euro edged down to $1.2262 from $1.2264. AP

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