Scoreboard: Eyes on ECB

European sharemarkets lifted on hopes the ECB will expand its program of asset purchases, while Wall Street edged higher as investors poured over the latest economic data.

In US economic data, the ISM services index rose from 57.1 to 59.3 in November, above forecasts for a result near 57.5. The ADP survey showed that 208,000 jobs were created in November, just short of expectations for 221,000 job growth. The mortgage market index fell by 7.3 per cent in the latest week, dragged down by a fall in refinancing.

The latest Federal Reserve Beige Book, said employment gains were widespread with some districts reporting difficulty in filling jobs in a number of sectors; price and wage inflation was subdued; manufacturing activity strengthened.

European shares generally rose on Wednesday on hopes that the European Central Bank will inject more stimulus into the economy on Thursday. The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose by 0.5 per cent and the German Dax rose by 0.4 per cent. But the UK FTSE eased by 0.4 per cent. In London trade shares in BHP Billiton rose by 0.2 per cent while Rio Tinto gained 1.1 per cent. 

US sharemarkets were steady on Wednesday as investors dissected the latest economic data and awaited the results from the European Central Bank meeting. At the close of trade, the Dow Jones was up by 33 points or 0.2 per cent with the S&P 500 index up by 0.4 per cent while the Nasdaq was higher by 18.7 points or 0.4 per cent. 

US treasuries were little-changed on Wednesday and traders moved to the sidelines in anticipation of Friday's non-farm payrolls (employment) data. US two-year yields rose by 1 point to 0.55 per cent while US 10-year yields fell 2 points to 2.28 per cent.

Major currencies were mixed against the greenback in European and US trade on Wednesday. The Euro fell from highs near $US1.2385 to near $US1.2310 and was around the lows in late US trade. The Aussie dollar rose from lows near US83.90c to around US84.40c and was around US84.00c in late US trade. And the Japanese yen eased from 119.10 yen per US dollar to ¥119.83 and was near  ¥119.81 in late US trade.

World oil prices were mixed on Wednesday. US crude stocks fell by 3.7 million barrels last week, versus expectations for a build of 1.3 million barrels. Traders await the European Central Bank meeting and US jobs data. In an interview, the Exxon Mobil chief executive said that the company had tested its investments in shale oil for prices between $US40-120 a barrel. Brent crude fell by US62c or 0.9 per cent to $US69.92 a barrel. The US Nymex crude price rose by US50c or 0.7 per cent to $US67.38 a barrel.

Base metal prices were mixed on the London Metal Exchange on Wednesday. Aluminium lost 0.8 per cent and copper fell by 0.6 per cent but nickel rose by 1.6 per cent. Gold rose on Wednesday with Comex gold futures up by $US9.30 an ounce or 0.8 per cent to $US1,208.70 per ounce. Iron ore fell by US20c to $US69.50 a tonne on Wednesday.

Ahead: In Australia, retail trade and international trade data are released. The European Central Bank meets. In the US, data on weekly claims for unemployment insurance is released with the Challenger job layoff series.

Craig James is chief economist at CommSec.

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