World stocks muted on China data, Greek debt fix
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 | 12:23
World stocks were muted Wednesday as hopes of more steps to prop up China's growth were offset by pessimism over Europe's debt crisis.
Benchmark oil hovered above $106 per barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.
In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent to 5,922.03. Germany's DAX lost 0.4 percent to 6,880.81 and France's CAC-40 slid marginally to 3,462.40.
Benchmarks in Asia fared better and Wall Street appeared headed for a higher opening. Dow Jones industrial futures rose nearly 0.1 percent to 12,957 and S&P 500 futures were 0.1 percent higher at 1,361.40.
Earlier in the day, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo added 1 percent to close at 9,554 - its highest finish in more than six months, as a weakening yen boosted the prospects of Japan's critical export sector.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent to 21,549.28. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,028.65. Benchmarks in Australia, mainland China, Taiwan and Malaysia rose, while New Zealand, Singapore, India and Indonesia fell.
The preliminary reading of HSBC's China manufacturing index rose from 48.8 in January to 49.7 in February. But the number was still below the 50-level that signifies expansion, suggesting that the Chinese central bank may loosen credit - a move typically welcomed by markets.
Analysts at Barclays Capital in Hong Kong said the figure "will likely provide some comfort to the market" due to expectations that the People's Bank of China will undertake further monetary easing in order to try to stimulate growth.
The news helped spur mainland Chinese shares higher. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.9 percent to 2,403.59 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained 2.2 percent to 954.23.
Elsewhere, Japanese exporters posted solid gains, boosted by a softening yen that raises the value of repatriated profits. The dollar rose above the 80-yen mark for the first time since Aug. 4, Kyodo News agency said.
Isuzu Motors Ltd. jumped 3 percent and Nissan Motor Co. rose 2.3 percent. Nintendo Co. added 3.2 percent.
Hong Kong-listed Alibaba.com soared 42.7 percent after its parent said it wants to take the Chinese e-commerce company private for $2.5 billion, part of a shift in business strategy that also includes plans to buy back a stake from Yahoo Inc.
Meanwhile, investors continued to weigh whether a second, massive bailout for Greece would succeed in containing a two-year debt crisis dogging Europe.
Under a deal reached Tuesday after a 12-hour negotiating marathon in Brussels, Greece will get 130 billion euros ($172 billion) from other European nations and the International Monetary Fund to meet its immediate debt obligations. That was Greece's second bailout following a 110 billion euros ($146 billion) rescue in 2010.
Separately, private investors in Greek bonds will be asked to forgive 107 billion euros in debt - a 53.5 percent loss on the face value of their bonds. Such action could dampen any willingness for future investments in debt-mired Greece.
It remains uncertain whether the deal will give Greece enough time to enact economic reforms and get back on the path to growth. Many hurdles remain.
"The positive reaction to the Greek bailout deal failed to gain traction leaving risk assets under a degree of pressure. The fact that the deal was highly expected played a role in the unenthusiastic reaction but markets may also be cautious given the major tasks that still (lie) ahead," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.
Budget cuts could keep Greece's economy in deep recession instead of returning to growth in 2013, as the deal assumes. That would undermine chances of paying even the reduced debt load. Spending cuts could reduce tax revenue and possibly worsen the government's finances.
Benchmark oil for April delivery was down 2 cents to $106.23 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose by $2.65 to finish at $106.25 per barrel on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3221 from $1.3244 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 80.16 yen from 79.71 yen.
Source: Associated Press
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