LONDON — Global stock markets traded in fairly narrow ranges on Wednesday after further soft U.S. economic data reinforced concerns over the recovery in the world’s largest economy. Uncertainty over whether the European Central Bank will unveil another stimulus on Thursday also kept traders in check.
KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.2 percent to 4,541 while Germany’s DAX rose 0.4 percent to 10,727. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 percent to 6,832. U.S. stocks were poised to open slightly lower, with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 down 0.1 percent.
US CONCERNS: A run of weak U.S. data has weighed on sentiment in markets in recent sessions. On Wednesday, a private monthly survey found that U.S. services companies expanded in August at the slowest pace in more than six years. Last month’s decline was also the biggest since late 2008, when the U.S. was gripped by a recession following the financial crisis. The soft data has reduced expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again soon — a potential boon for stocks. However, worries over the U.S. economy have ratcheted up fears about the outlook and the earning power of companies — and that’s bad for stocks.
ANALYST TAKE: “Markets never have been convinced about a rate hike this year but these reports have once again tipped the balance back in favor of a March 2017 move, rather than December, while September is only 15 percent priced in,” said Craig Erlam, chief market analyst at OANDA.
ECB UNCERTAINTY: Another factor holding back momentum relates to uncertainty over whether the ECB will boost its monetary stimulus on Thursday following some lackluster economic data. Nothing dramatic is expected given that the ECB recently cut its main interest rate to zero and expanded its monthly bond purchases. One of the more likely steps would be to extend its current 80 billion euros ($90 billion) per month in bond purchases from banks and other financial institutions. Such purchases pump newly created money into the banking system. The ECB has already bought over 1 trillion euros worth, on its way to an expected 1.74 trillion euros.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent to finish at 17,012.44 as the latest U.S. data pushed the yen higher, hurting shares of the country’s export manufacturers. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 2,061.88 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 0.2 percent to 23,741.81. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China climbed less than 0.1 percent to 3,091.93 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent to 5,424.20.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures added 28 cents to $45.11 in electronic trading in the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell 6 cents to $47.20 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.1237 while the dollar fell 0.3 percent to 101.65 yen.