Stocks in the U.S finished flat in a lacklustre session Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average erased 20.14 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 13,232.62, snapping a seven-day winning streak. The S&P500 eked out a gain of 1.57 points, or 0.11 percent, to end at 1,404.17 whilst the Nasdaq slipped 1.11 points, or 0.04 percent to finish at 3,055.26.
On the economic front, consumer sentiment slipped in early March to 74.3 from 75.3 in February, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading on the overall index.
Meanwhile, the Fed's core CPI measure came in at only a 0.1% gain, supporting its view on a lack of any inflation threat. Given a low rise in wages in the month and a strong CPI, real wages fell 0.3% in February. The result was taken as a confirmation of the Fed's view, and the US dollar index fell 0.5% to 79.81 as thoughts of any tightening of monetary policy waned.
Industrial production was unchanged, snapping a three-month gain, according to the Federal Reserve, amid a drop in mining output.
The fall in the US dollar spurred traders into action and into focussing on the upcoming commencement of sanctions against Iranian crude exports from the US, UK and others. West Texas crude rose US$2.04 to US$107.15/bbl and Brent jumped US$3.31 to US$125.81/bbl for the new May delivery front month.
Precious and base metals were unmoved by the dollar's fall however, with gold steady at US$1659.80/oz and base metals mostly down around 1%.
This week's data will give US investors pause for thought on a string of housing market releases. The housing market sentiment index is released tonight, followed by housing starts on Tuesday, existing home sales on Wednesday, the FHFA house price index on Thursday and new home sales on Friday.
It will be a busy week for the Conference Board, which provides a US leading economic index release on Thursday and a Chinese equivalent on Friday, having delivered an Australian equivalent on Tuesday.
Tuesday also sees the release of the minutes of the last RBA meeting and on Wednesday Westpac will provide its local leading economic index. New Zealand's December quarter GDP result will be released on Thursday.
HSBC's flash manufacturing PMI estimate is expected later this week, with Thursday the first possible date.
On the local stock front, today is again another day dominated by ex-divs ahead of some scattered late earnings results out this week, with Alacer Gold (AQG), Aurora Oil & Gas (AUT), David Jones (DJS) and Kathmandu (KMD) reporting on Wednesday and Sigma Pharmaceuticals (SIP) on Thursday.