Global stocks finish mixed to cap lackluster August

Wall Street shrugged off an increase in the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation (SCOTT OLSON)
Wall Street shrugged off an increase in the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation (SCOTT OLSON)

Global indexes mostly dipped on Thursday, capping off a lackluster month of growth for markets around the world.

European stocks mostly slipped, as did major Asian markets with the exception of Japan's Nikkei 225 index, which rose on renewed confidence in manufacturing stocks after auto giant Toyota posted strong earnings results.

Wall Street stumbled to end Thursday's session, with the Dow and S&P 500 both falling as traders digested the latest inflation numbers and looked ahead to jobs data that could prove crucial to future interest rate decisions.

A small rally on Thursday failed to save the Nasdaq from seeing its worst month of the year, while the pan-European Euro Stoxx 50 also saw a disappointing month overall.

Both the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have adopted a more data-dependent approach on whether to increase interest rates further.

That made the latest inflation data all the more important ahead of the next monetary policy meetings due in September.

The Fed's preferred measure of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, rose to a 3.3 percent annual increase in July, up from 3.0 percent in June.

Thursday's data was "probably widely viewed as just fine," Craig Erlam of the OANDA trading platform told AFP.

"It's good enough for now but there's still a lot of improvement needed over the coming months," he added, before the Fed can begin relaxing monetary policy.

- Sticky inflation -

Across the Atlantic, stocks in Frankfurt rose while those in Paris fell after data showed the annual rate of inflation in the eurozone remained unchanged in August at 5.3 percent. This came as a smaller drop in energy prices balanced out a rise in food and drinks costs.

Analysts said the data increased the chance of the European Central Bank deciding against a further interest rate hike next month. That in turn weighed on the euro.

"With unemployment starting to show signs of increasing across the bloc, markets are starting to price an increased probability of a pause in the ECB's rate hiking cycle when the governing council next meets on September 14th," said analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

In Asia, China revealed that factory activity shrank again this month while services weakened, which will likely pile further pressure on authorities to press ahead with measures to kickstart the sputtering economy.

Officials have announced a series of pledges to help various sectors -- particularly the property industry -- and there is an expectation that more is on the way.

In the latest measure, local reports Thursday said the central bank is drawing up policies that will make it easier for private firms, including developers, to access funding.

But analysts say more wide-ranging government spending will be required to appease nervous investors.

Fresh data showing the country's manufacturing sector contracted for a fifth straight month in August only added to the arguments for more help.

On the corporate front, shares in UBS jumped six percent after the bank giant said it would fully absorb the Swiss unit of its recently-swallowed rival Credit Suisse.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 34,721.91 points (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.2 percent at 4,507.66 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.1 percent at 14,034.97 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 at 7,439.13 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.4 percent at 15,947.08 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,316.70 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.4 percent at 4,297.11 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.9 percent at 32,619.34 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.6 percent at 18,382.06 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,119.88 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0844 from $1.0925 Thursday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2669 from $1.2719

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 145.49 yen from 146.23 yen

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.56 pence from 85.87 pence

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.2 percent at $86.86 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.5 percent at $83.63 per barrel