Stocks lose grip on gains, euro scales heights

Reuters and AFP

LONDON/HONG KONG–Stocks consolidated some of their gains of the last two days as caution also ticked-up before the Federal Reserve’s meeting next week amid talk of a tentative scaling-back of its stimulus from some of its policymakers. After a subdued day for Asian stock markets, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 and Britain’s FTSE 100 all opened little changed to get the pan-regional FTSEurofirst 300 index off to a steady start. Investors were poised for a busy day of data on some of the countries still struggling in the euro zone, as well as some interesting money market operations at the ECB where liquidity levels are now the tightest in two years.

Slightly weaker-than-expected French industrial production got things off to a shaky start though equivalent data from Italy was better ahead of its final third quarter GDP number later at 1000 GMT. France’s disappointing figures did little to rattle the strong euro, or the region’s main bond markets as they continued to add to the minor gains of recent days.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields were steady at 2.8243 in early European trade and Wall Street was expected to inch higher when it resumes later after the S&P 500 drifted to another record high on Monday. Asian markets fell on Tuesday after a top official at the U.S. Federal Reserve said the bank might announce a small cut in its stimulus program next week. With a string of upbeat U.S. data pointing to a pick-up in the economy and boosting confidence, the Japanese yen — considered a haven during uncertainty — came under pressure against the dollar and euro as investors seek out higher-yielding, “riskier” assets. Tokyo eased 0.25 percent, or 38.90 points, to 15,611.31, Sydney was almost unchanged, edging down 0.8 points to 5,143.6 and Seoul gave up 0.35 percent, or 6.93 points, to end at 1,993.45.