Friday, September 20, 2013

Stocks on Wall Street were little changed as investors hoped that remarks by several senior Federal Reserve officials scheduled to speak on Friday would shed light on the Fed's recent surprise decision to keep its stimulus efforts intact.

In early trading the Standard & Poor's 500-share index was up 0.1 percent, the Dow Jones industrial average was flat, and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.2 percent.

Trading could be volatile as Friday marks the "quadruple witching," when stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single stock futures all expire on the same day. Trading increases as investors replace or repurchase existing contracts.

Two days after an unexpected decision by the Federal Reserve to delay scaling back its massive monthly bond purchase program, four central bank officials are scheduled to speak at events around midday, and investors hope their remarks may contain signals on how much longer the Fed's stimulus will continue.

In global markets, which jumped on Thursday after the Fed's announcement, trading was largely subdued as investors took stock of their positions and locked in some of the gains, with half an eye on German elections on Sunday.

On Thursday, Wall Street retreated slightly as investors paused after the Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to keep its stimulus intact sparked a rally that day which took the Dow and S&P 500 to record highs.

In company news, Apple shares rose 1 percent on the day the new iPhone models went for sale across the globe.

Microsoft could be in the spotlight. The company's chief executive, Steven A. Ballmer, has made an impassioned plea to investors at an annual meeting to support his vision of the world's largest software company as a unified devices and services powerhouse. He said in August he planned to step down within 12 months. The stock was down 1.4 percent.

In afternoon trading Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index of blue chips was down 0.2 percent, and London's FTSE 100 was also down 0.2 percent. Euro zone bond markets were little changed, while the euro was holding near an eight-month high after its best week since July.

After being battered in May and June by the prospect of reduced stimulus, emerging market currencies and stocks have some of the biggest winners from Wednesday's Fed move. Indian financial markets were roiled again on Friday, however, after the Reserve Bank of India unexpectedly raised interest rates by 25 basis points. The Indian rupee fell 1.0 percent to 62.34 to the dollar while Indian shares fell almost 2 percent.

The Indonesian rupiah also gave up some of Thursday's gains to trade at 11,390 to the dollar, down 1.0 percent on the day. Jakarta shares, which jumped 4.7 percent on Thursday, lost 1.9 percent.

Brighter economic data out of the United States on Thursday, which included a surge in home sales and some encouraging unemployment claims figures, provided a timely reminder that a scaling back of stimulus will come eventually, despite this week's delay.

That helped push the yield on the United States 10-year Treasury note back up to 2.75 percent from a five-week low of 2.67 percent touched just after the Fed's decision, and kept the dollar index just clear of a seven-month low at 80.417 points.

In the commodities market, benchmark crude oil slipped 65 cents a barrel to $105.74 on Friday after a 1.5 percent drop the previous day on increased Libyan production and signs of a thawing of diplomatic relations between Iran and the West.

Meanwhile, gold - whose reputation as an inflation hedge means it usually benefits from central bank stimulus - hovered at $1,369 an ounce, on track for its best week in five.

Source: Nytimes

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