World markets ring in 2018 on mixed note

Roland JACKSON
 

Global stock markets greeted 2018 on Tuesday in mixed fashion, despite a raft of bright manufacturing surveys, with many investors away for extended holidays.

Asian stocks mostly kicked off the year with gains, fuelled by strong data, improving corporate profits and hopes that US President Donald Trump's tax cuts will fire US and world growth.

Sentiment was also boosted by news that both Chinese and Indian manufacturing activity continued to expand in December.

Hong Kong led Tuesday's rally, jumping two percent to its highest level since late 2007, while Shanghai ended 1.2 percent higher.

In Europe however, Frankfurt, London and Paris slid in subdued deals as investors took profits and also absorbed various manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) surveys on the first trading day of 2018.

"Despite a healthy serving of manufacturing PMIs, there is the definite sense... that the markets are not at full force just yet, instead gradually easing themselves back into a full-time schedule," Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell told AFP.

"A bit of profit-taking in the mining sector and the continued weakness of the dollar appeared to be driving trading, especially in Europe, with the manufacturing data having little impact on proceedings."

London stocks sagged despite news of solid manufacturing output and order growth in December.

"Today is all about the latest PMI manufacturing surveys: China's looked good and India is even better, while the UK posted a decent figure," noted analyst Russ Mould at online stockbroker AJ Bell.

He sounded caution however over global oil prices which topped $67 per barrel in early deals on the back of a weaker dollar, unrest in crude giant Iran and a pause in the number of rigs coming online in the United States.

"The one topic that is potentially being overlooked is oil," Mould told AFP.

"Brent has reached $67 a barrel almost unnoticed, even if that is near a three-year high, and higher fuel costs nearly always act as a brake on the economy at some stage, so this issue merits closer attention," he cautioned.

Investors were meanwhile keeping an eye on the release of key US jobs figures at the end of the week, which will provide fresh clues about the strength of the world's biggest economy.

- Dollar wobbles -

On currency markets, the dollar suffered further selling, with analysts pointing to profit-taking after the passage of the much-anticipated US tax cuts, as well as expected monetary tightening by other central banks that will align them with the Federal Reserve.

Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, said the euro was rising as "traders are making the bet that the (European Central Bank) will simply follow the Fed in the year ahead and end quantitative easing and then move toward rate hikes".

The single currency held above $1.20, sitting at levels not seen since September, while the pound was also trading at around three-and-a-half-month highs.

- Key figures around 1130 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,653.15 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.8 percent at 12,820.90

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.9 percent at 5,265.34

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,477.36

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 2.0 percent at 20,515.31 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 3,348.33 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday

New York - DOW: DOWN 0.5 percent at 24,719.22 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2072 from $1.2005 late on Friday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3548 from $1.3513

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.23 yen from 112.69 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 14 cents at $66.73 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN ten cents at $60.32

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