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Saturday 22nd of November 2008
February 20, 2007

Markets, metals prices mixed


by Elaine Frei

Markets, metals prices mixed

While the Topix index in Tokyo fell back from a 15-year high early in the session on Tuesday, it still managed to hit its highest closing level in 10 months as it added 0.2 percent on the session to 1,782.73. The Nikkei closed even at 17,939.12. Both indices were affected by investor unease as the Bank of Japan began its latest meeting ahead of a new announcement on interest rates that was due Wednesday. Analysts were divided on whether the Bank would hold the interest rate at its current level or increase it. The steel sector was higher on more mergers and acquisitions speculation..

European equities markets were lower on the day. The CAC 40 dropped 0.46 percent to 5,713.45, while in Frankfurt the Xetra Dax was 0.06 percent lower to 6,982.91. The FTSE Eurofrist 300 was down 0.3 percent to 1,544.99. Carmakers were higher, brewers were mixed, and the oil sector declined with the price on crude oil.

In London, both the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 saw declines. The 100 dropped 0.5 percent to 6,412.3, while the 250 fell 0.4 percent to 11,586.9. Building materials group Hanson (LSE: HNS; NYSE: HAN) added 2.9 percent to 835p ahead of its full-year report on a “buy” recommendation from ABN Amro (Euronext: AAB; NYSE: ABN) and on bids news in the sector.

On Wall Street, the equities markets were a bit higher at midday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average 0.1 percent higher to 12,778.87. The Nasdaq had added 0.4 percent so far on the session to 2,506.20, while the S&P 500 was up 0.2 percent to 1,458.13. The retail sector was mixed, with Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) higher but Home Depot (NYSE: HD) lower after it reported that the lagging housing market had sent its profits in the quarter down by 28 percent. In the media sector, both XM Radio (NASDAQ: XMSR) and Sirius Satellite Radio (NASDAQ: SIRI) were higher after the announcement that the two would merge, even though there were considerable regulatory hurdles to cross before such a merger can take place.

Crude oil prices dropped despite the news that the US Department of Energy will start purchasing oil to increase the United States’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve in March and even though the BBC had reported details of a contingency plan for US bombing of Iran. With March contracts expiring at the end of the session, West Texas Intermediate Crude was over $1 lower on the session. Forecasts of milder weather to come in the US Northeast contributed to the price decline. Gold prices followed oil lower, as did silver and platinum. Base metals prices were mixed.

On currency markets, the yen weakened ahead of the Bank of Japan’s next decision on interest rates, due Wednesday. Analysts were divided on whether the Bank would raise rates or not, and on whether a rate hike would have any real effect on the Japanese currency’s fortunes. The Swiss franc also lost ground, while sterling strengthened and the US dollar held steady against the euro.

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