Europe, tech keeps stocks in check; US dollar softens

NEW YORK – Retreating US technology shares and soft European markets capped world equity gains on Monday, while the US dollar fell to its lowest level in over a year against a basket of major currencies.

European shares initially gained on a boost from HSBC, as Europe’s biggest bank unveiled a 5-percent rise in half-year profits and a third share buyback in a year. But they later retreated amid weakness in tobacco stocks and some broker downgrades.

HSBC shares ended up 1.8 percent after earlier gaining nearly 4 percent in London trading.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 0.11 percent, while MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.16 percent. MSCI’s index was poised for its best month in a year while the FTSEurofirst lost ground for a second straight month.

On Wall Street, banks were also a bright spot, with the S&P financial index up 0.63 percent as the best performing of 11 major sectors.

Weakness in technology stocks such as Facebook, down 1.9 percent and Apple, off 0.4 percent, curbed gains on the broad S&P index and pushed the Nasdaq into negative territory. Apple is scheduled to report earnings after the market close on Tuesday.

Economic data on the US housing market showed contracts to buy previously owned US homes rebounded in June after 3 straight monthly declines, while other data showed Midwest factory activity slowed after hitting a 3-month high in June.

“Maybe part of the reason why we’re flattish today, at least for the S&P, is that people are trying to figure out where the overall economy is going and the signs have been mixed,” said Ed Keon, managing director and portfolio manager at QMA, a multi-asset manager in Newark, New Jersey.

“If you look at broader picture, a lot of the data has been a little on the disappointing side.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 60.88 points, or 0.28 percent, to 21,891.19, the S&P 500 lost 1.74 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,470.36 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 26.55 points, or 0.42 percent, to 6,348.12.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 rose for the fourth straight month.

TOBACCO COMPANIES DROP

Shares of world tobacco companies continued to lag, after the US Food and Drug Administration proposed on Friday to cut nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels.

British American Tobacco fell 5 percent, after dropping 6.8 percent on Friday, and Imperial Brands fell 5.9 percent. In the US, Altria Group, off 2.4 and Philip Morris, down 0.9 were among the top drags on the S&P 500.

Mining companies in London advanced 0.34 percent, as copper hit a fresh 2-year high after Chinese data showed that while manufacturing growth cooled slightly this month, a government infrastructure push kept construction moving.

Copper rose 0.75 percent to $6,372.50 a ton, having risen as high as $6,430.

The US dollar hit a 2-1/2-year low against the euro on Monday on month-end portfolio adjustments and expectations for a more hawkish European Central Bank, and touched a more than 6-week low against the yen on concerns over low US inflation.

The dollar index fell 0.45 percent, with the euro up 0.74 percent to $1.1837. The dollar index hit a low of 92.786, its lowest level since May 2016, and has fallen for 5 straight months.

Benchmark 10-year notes Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 1/32 in price to yield 2.2888 percent, from 2.287 percent late on Friday ahead of a heavy week of data, which will culminate in Friday’s employment report for July.

Oil prices climbed as news of a producers’ meeting next week added to bullish sentiment driven by the threat of U.S. sanctions against OPEC-member Venezuela.

US crude settled up 0.9 percent at $51.17 per barrel and Brent settled up 0.3 percent at $52.65 on the day.

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