Friday, January 7, 2011

GLOBAL MARKETS-Dollar rises, stocks slip before US jobs data

NEW YORK: The euro fell to a five-week low against the dollar on Thursday, Jan 6 on revived worries about the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis, while stocks eased on softer retail sales data before a U.S. employment report expected to give direction to markets.

Commodity prices' decline, including oil, helped the inflation-wary U.S. government bond market.

U.S. stock indices fell as major U.S. retailers missed Wall Street estimates for December sales after a post-Christmas blizzard slowed a two-month shopping spree, driving down consumer shares.

Expectations that Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls will show a 175,000 gain in December magnified the dollar's strength against the euro but left equity investors edgy.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 25.58 points, or 0.22 percent, at 11,697.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 2.71 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,273.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 7.69 points, or 0.28 percent, at 2,709.89.

"The market has just been on a tear ... and a lot of investors are probably sitting on their hands waiting for the (jobs) report tomorrow," said Don Wordell, portfolio manager of RidgeWorth MidCap Value Fund in Orlando, Florida.

"After the report on Wednesday, I would say the market probably needs to see a private employment number close to 200,000 and the overall number better be up that high too. If it's materially below that, I think that would be a reason for the market to sell off."

The ADP Employer Services survey, which showed private employers added 297,000 jobs last month, raised expectations about Friday's broader employment report from the government.

Some analysts are expecting employment gains of as much as 500,000.

The front month futures contract for the Nikkei 225 stock index trading in Chicago fell 20 points to 10,520.

World stocks as measured by MSCI dipped 0.2 percent. Emerging markets stocks were down 0.5 percent on fears that record high food prices could stoke inflation, protectionism and unrest in key emerging economies.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares finished up 0.4 percent at 1,147.23 points after touching 1,154.10, the highest since mid-September 2008.

Spreads between peripheral euro zone government bond yields and benchmark German debt widened as investors worried about fresh supply next week from the region's higher-yielding issuers.

Wider spreads were driven by a rise in Portuguese debt yields. Debt auctions in Spain and Italy are also scheduled for next week.

"It's a continuing concern about the refinancing risk for euro zone countries in the next few weeks," said Samarjit Shankar, managing director of global foreign exchange strategy at BNY Mellon in Boston.

"In general, the euro is suffering from some fundamental concerns about the sustainability of the currency itself in terms of the sovereign debt crisis."

The euro fell to $1.2997 on trading platform EBS, its weakest level in five weeks. It last traded down 0.99 percent at $1.3008.

The dollar index was up 0.71 percent at 80.826.

The dollar's rise reverberated throughout the commodities market. U.S. light sweet crude oil futures settled down 2.13 percent at $88.38 per barrel, and spot gold prices fell 0.4 percent to $1371.70.

U.S. Treasury prices gained. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 16/32, with the yield at 3.401 percent. The 2-year U.S. Treasury note was up 2/32, with the yield at 0.6767 percent. The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond was up 13/32, with the yield at 4.5141 percent. - Reuters

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