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International markets roundup

NEW YORK - US stocks have climbed as investors anticipated a strong earnings season and as US President Donald Trump's suggestion that a military strike on Syria may not be imminent ratcheted down geopolitical worries.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.21 per cent to 24,483.05, the S&P 500 gained 0.83 per cent to 2,663.99, and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.01 per cent to 7,140.25

Trump said in a tweet on Thursday that a possible attack on Syria could occur "very soon or not so soon at all," easing fears of confrontation with Russia.

That lifted US Treasury yields, leading to a 1.8 per cent increase in financial stocks, which had the biggest percentage advance among the S&P's 11 major sectors.

The technology sector rose 1.3 per cent, adding the most gains to the S&P.

Strong quarterly results from BlackRock Inc and Delta Air Lines Inc added to the sanguine mood. Delta topped profit estimates, sending its shares 2.9 per cent higher and boosting other airline stocks.

Analysts expect quarterly profit for S&P 500 companies to rise 18.4 per cent from a year ago, in what would be the biggest gain in seven years, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Investor sentiment was also boosted by the weekly US initial jobless claims report, which pointed to sustained labour market strength.

LONDON - A spate of deal-making and strong financial stocks were outweighed by anxiety over the Syrian conflict and a rising pound, keeping Britain's FTSE 100 flat.

Britain's leading stock index closed up 0.02 per cent at 7,258.34 points on Thursday, lagging European indices which gained in a recovery rally as some saw an easing of tensions over possible US military action in Syria.

Dealmaking drove big moves on the FTSE which was likely left out of Europe's relief rally due to the strength of sterling, which soared to a nine-month high against the euro.

Micro Focus jumped 7.6 per cent to the top of the index after a Bloomberg report that Elliott Management had taken a stake in the software firm. Neither company commented on the report.

Among mid-caps, shares in British bus and rail operator FirstGroup rose 8.2 per cent after a takeover offer from US private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

HONG KONG - Hong Kong stocks shed early gains to end lower, as caution prevailed amid rising tensions in the Middle East following the threat of imminent US military action in Syria.

The Hang Seng index closed down 0.2 per cent at 30,831.28 points on Thursday, while the China Enterprises Index ended 0.3 per cent lower at 12,288.86.

US president Donald Trump declared that missiles "will be coming" in Syria, taunting Russia for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a suspected chemical attack on rebels.

His comments raised the prospect of direct conflict over Syria for the first time between the two world powers backing opposing sides in the seven-year-old civil war, which has also escalated a rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Adding to the pressure was the lingering concern over the trade spat between China and the United States.

China's commerce ministry said on Thursday trade negotiations with the United States would be impossible as Washington's attempts at dialogue were not sincere, and vowed to retaliate should US President Donald Trump escalate current tensions.

Around the region, MSCI's Asia ex-Japan stock index slipped 0.32 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei index closed down 0.12 per cent.

WELLINGTON - .New Zealand shares fell, pushing the benchmark index to a week-low, as geopolitical tensions weighed on equities.

The S/NZX 50 Index fell 49.50 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 8,404.22. Within the index, 28 stocks fell, 16 gained, and six were unchanged. Turnover was $125 million.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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