Thursday, December 22, 2011

GLOBAL MARKETS-Oracle drags tech shares; euro off after ECB boost

Larger Smaller Reset NEW YORK (Dec 21): The euro fell Wednesday as doubts set in over whether fresh lending by the European Central Bank would be used to buy struggling euro-zone debt, while Oracle's weak earnings weighed on TECHNOLOGY [] stocks and kept Wall Street mostly flat.

Global shares edged higher, adding to the previous day's strong gains, though volumes were thin as the year-end holidays approach.

Italian and Spanish government bond yields rose, snapping an eight-session down trend, while prices of German Bunds edged up.

Initial optimism about ECB lending to euro-zone banks gave way to concerns that the flood of liquidity only highlighted the scale of the pressure European banks are under.

The ECB lent 489 billion euros ($641.08 billion) to banks to ease the inter-bank credit crunch and tempt banks to buy higher-yielding Italian and Spanish debt, but optimism that the funding would ease Europe's two-year-old debt crisis quickly faded.

An Italian industry group said banks would not increase their exposure to sovereign debt even after the ECB offering because European Bank Authority rules discourage it.

"The key question remains what the banks will do with the newly acquired funds," said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.

"We suspect that to the extent banks buy sovereign bonds, they will purchase their own sovereign's bonds rather than their neighbors'."

Shares of Oracle Corp, the world's No. 3 software maker, fell 11.7 percent after it missed Wall Street's forecasts for the first time in a decade.

Stock in its German peer SAP fell 6.1 percent, making it the worst-performing blue chip in Europe. Microsoft Corp fell 1 percent. The S&P technology sector lost 2 percent.

"It is certainly a concern, Oracle is a bellwether in the sector, but some of the other stocks in the group may be overreacting," said Brian Lazorishak, portfolio manager at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 4.16 points, or 0.03 percent, to 12,107.74 and the S&P 500 Index gained 2.42 points, or 0.19 percent, to 1,243.72.

But the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 25.76 points, or 0.99 percent, to 2,577.97.

Global stocks as measured by MSCI rose 0.23 percent a day after posting their largest gains since Nov. 30, while the European benchmark FTSEurofirst 300 closed 0.47 percent lower. U.S. dollar-denominated Nikkei futures fell less than 0.1 percent.

Global equity markets and the euro have traded off European headlines for months as Europe's escalating sovereign debt crisis threatens to take down the region's economy.


The euro fell against the U.S. dollar after the larger-than-expected bank demand for ECB loans failed to convince investors the move would ease Europe's deep-seated debt problems.

The euro initially rose nearly 1 percent on the day to a one-week high near $1.32 before giving up gains to trade around $1.3040, down 0.3 percent.

"While the ECB had hoped that banks borrowing at low rates would buy sovereign debt, it appears they are using the perceived bullish opportunity to jettison risk," said Christopher Vecchio, currency analyst at

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 14/32 to yield 1.9737 percent, up from 1.927 percent on Tuesday.

Italian bond yields were 18 basis points higher at 6.817 percent, with Spanish yields 19 basis points higher at 5.313 percent. Both had fallen almost 100 basis points in the last week and a half.

Italian data showed the economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the third quarter, compared with the previous three months, while British consumer morale hit an almost three-year low in December.

U.S. crude futures settled at $98.67 per barrel, up $1.43, or 1.5 percent, after government data showed inventories fell to their lowest level since the late 2008. - Reuters

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