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While you were sleeping: US data disappoints

Thursday 27th November 2014

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Wall Street seesawed near record highs ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday and as key producers gathered in Vienna for an OPEC meeting that might help determine how much further the price of oil will slide.

A report showed US consumer confidence climbed to a seven year high, as the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of sentiment rose to 88.8 this month, up from 86.9 in October. That was a welcome indicator following an unexpected drop in the Conference Board’s confidence index, released on Tuesday.

A separate report by the National Association of Realtors showed the pending home sales index fell 1.1 percent in October, following a 0.6 percent gain in September that was larger than initially reported.

Despite October's modest decline, contract signings have remained at a healthy pace for six straight months, according to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

”In addition to low interest rates, buyers entering the market this autumn are being lured by the increase in homes for sale and less competition from investors paying in cash," Yun said in a statement. "Demand is holding steady but would be more robust if it weren't for lagging wage growth and tight credit conditions."

Meanwhile, a Commerce Department report showed new home purchases in the US rose 0.7 percent to a 458,000 annualised pace last month, up from a revised 455,000 rate in September that was lower than initially reported.

And the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago Business Barometer fell more than expected to 60.8 this month, down from 66.2 in October.

"We think growth will moderate in the fourth quarter. I'm not reading anything incredibly negative into this," Michael Gapen, a senior economist at Barclays in New York, told Reuters.

The slew of reports reflected that US government offices and Wall Street will be closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Many offices will be closed on Friday too, when Wall Street will close early.

Meanwhile, oil prices were steady ahead of Thursday’s meeting of OPEC ministers as investors try to gauge the likelihood they will move to curb supply.

“There’s no clarity about what they will decide to do tomorrow,” Adam Wise, who helps run a US$6 billion oil and gas bond portfolio as a managing director at John Hancock in Boston, told Bloomberg News. “There’s been commentary from both sides with a softer tone coming from the Saudis, who are by far the most important nation in OPEC.”

The latest US earnings were mixed too. Shares of Deere & Co slid, last down 1 percent, after the company predicted a decline in equipment sales in the current quarter.

Shares of Hewlett-Packard gained, last up 4.2 percent, after investors opted to focus on the company’s pending break-up instead of its disappointing fourth-quarter results.

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.07 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.12 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.33 percent.

The Dow traded lower as declines in shares of DuPont and those of Chevron, down each 0.5 percent, outweighed gains in shares of Pfizer and those of AT&T, up 0.8 percent and 0.6 percent respectively.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX Index finished the day with a gain of 0.6 percent. The UK’s FTSE 100 Index inched 0.03 percent lower, while France’s CAC 40 fell 0.2 percent.

“There is still a lot of money around which could be invested back into equities,” Benno Galliker, a trader at Luzerner Kantonalbank in Lucerne, Switzerland, told Bloomberg News. “As long as central banks are pushing stocks, there is really a big support beneath this move.”


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