Global stocks down as U.S. banks drag; oil up as Syria angst lingers

NEW YORK – A gauge of stocks across the world fell on Friday but was on track to end the week with its strongest performance in five, while crude oil added to recent gains that drove it to highs not seen since late 2014.

The German share price index, DAX board, is seen at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Tilman Blasshofer

Banks stocks led Wall Street lower, with JPMorgan (JPM.N) down 3.0 percent after its earnings missed estimates.

Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida, said stock prices have taken in much of the heightened expectations on earnings.

“This has not been the typical pre-earnings season where you’re talking down expectations. There is some potential for disappointment; at the same time there is also lot of hope.”

Tax cuts are expected to help corporate America post its biggest quarterly profit growth in seven years. Earnings at S&P 500 companies are estimated to grow by 18.4 percent from a year earlier.

The larger bank stocks .SPXBK fell 2.6 percent Friday, still up about 1 percent for the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 76.55 points, or 0.31 percent, to 24,406.5, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 3.3 points, or 0.12 percent, to 2,660.69 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXICdropped 14.67 points, or 0.21 percent, to 7,125.58.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 rose 0.10 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 0.03 percent.

In emerging markets, stocks lost 0.57 percent.

Overnight, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS closed 0.17 percent lower, while Japan’s Nikkei .N225 rose 0.55 percent.

Global investors seemed to focus on the lack of a clear sign that any U.S.-led attack on Syria was imminent, but the prospect of Western military action in Syria that could lead to confrontation with Russia hung over the Middle East.

Oil prices rose and were headed for their largest weekly gain since July on support from lingering concerns about geopolitical risk and reports of dwindling global oil stocks.

“The geopolitical jitters just keep getting priced in here more and more, as we get closer to the moment of the strikes, if there are any,” said John Kilduff, partner at hedge fund Again Capital Management. He noted that Syria poses a large risk to global stability because of its relationship with powerful oil producers.

“Syria is a client state of both Russia and Iran and the risk for escalation is quite high and I think that is what the market is worried about.”

U.S. crude CLcv1 rose 0.57 percent to $67.45 per barrel and Brent LCOcv1 was last at $72.70, up 0.94 percent on the day.

Trade tensions also were not far from the surface, with analysts at Citi noting prolonged uncertainty will likely hurt open Asian economies such as Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority stepped into the currency market and bought another HK$3.038 billion ($387.01 million) in Hong Kong dollars on Friday as the local currency hit the weaker end of its trading range.

The U.S. dollar hit a seven-week high against the Japanese yen. The yen tends to benefit from geopolitical uncertainty and risk aversion. JPY= [FRX/]

The dollar index .DXY fell 0.04 percent, with the euro EUR= up 0.14 percent to $1.2342.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.04 percent versus the greenback at 107.39 per dollar, while Sterling GBP= was last trading at $1.4253, up 0.20 percent on the day.

Aluminum hit a six-year high on Friday and posted its biggest weekly gain since the current contract was launched after the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s UC Rusal (0486.HK), the world’s second-biggest producer. [MET/L]

London Metal Exchange aluminum CMAL3 hit its highest since March 2012 at $2,340 a tonne before retreating to close at $2,285, down 1.7 percent.

  • JPM.N
  • .DJI
  • .SPX
  • .IXIC
  • .FTEU3

Spot gold XAU= added 0.8 percent to $1,346.26 an ounce. U.S. gold futures GCcv1 gained 0.57 percent to $1,349.60 an ounce.

Copper CMCU3 rose 0.23 percent to $6,836.50 a tonne.

In sovereign debt markets, the U.S. Treasury yield curve hovered at its lowest level in more than decade as short-dated yields have risen more than longer-dated ones this week on expectations of further interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve.

Graphic: U.S. yield curve flattest in a decade

Benchmark 10-year notes US10YT=RR last rose 3/32 in price to yield 2.8248 percent, from 2.834 percent late on Thursday.

The 30-year bond US30YT=RR last rose 7/32 in price to yield 3.0294 percent, from 3.04 percent late on Thursday.

(GRAPHIC: World stocks set for best week in a month

(GRAPHIC: U.S. yield curve flattest in a decade

Source: Reuters

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