Scoreboard: German downer

European markets ended mixed as investors were dealt news of a sharp fall in German consumer sentiment, while the Australian dollar regained some ground.

In US economic data, the weekly mortgage market index rose by 2.8 per cent with the purchase index up 2.6 per cent and the refinancing index up by 2.8 per cent.

European shares were mixed on Wednesday. Investors weighed data showing the biggest fall in German consumer sentiment in more than three years and monitored news of talks between Russian and Ukrainian leaders. The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose by 0.1 per cent while the blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index fell by 0.1 per cent. The German Dax was down by 0.2 per cent while the UK FTSE gained 0.1 per cent. Australia's major miners were also mixed in London trade with shares in BHP Billiton up by 0.1 per cent while Rio Tinto lost 0.7 per cent.

US sharemarkets were flat on Wednesday. Many traders and investors were on holidays and there was no economic data to guide trading. Shares in electronics retailer Best Buy rebounded by 6.3 per cent while shares in clothing retailer Express rose by 12.75 per cent in response to its quarterly revenue result. The Dow Jones index lifted by 15 points or 0.1 per cent and the S&P 500 index rose by less than 0.1 per cent to record highs while the Nasdaq fell by 1 point or less than 0.1 per cent.

US treasury prices were mixed in thin trade on Wednesday. US Treasury sold $35 billion in five-year notes on Wednesday and will sell $29 billion in seven-year notes on Thursday. US 2-year yields rose by 1 point to 0.516 per cent while US 10-year yields were down by 4 points at 2.36 per cent.

Major currencies rose modestly higher against the US dollar over the European and US sessions on Wednesday. The euro rose from lows near $US1.3160 to around $US1.3210, before ending US trade near $US1.3195. The Australian dollar rose from lows near US93.15c to highs near US93.50c before ending the US session close to US93.35c. And the Japanese yen rose from 104.04 yen per US dollar to JPY103.78, ending US trade near JPY103.88.

World oil prices were slightly higher on Wednesday. Thomson Reuters noted "In its weekly report, the US Energy Information Administration said crude oil stocks fell by a greater-than-expected 2.07 million barrels last week, but inventories at Cushing, the delivery point for US crude futures, rose 508,000 barrels." Brent crude rose by US22c or 0.2 per cent to $US102.72 a barrel with the US Nymex price up by US2c a barrel to $US93.88 a barrel.

Base metal prices were again mixed on Wednesday with gains or losses not exceeding 1.2 per cent. Aluminium rose by 0.7 per cent while tin fell by 1.2 per cent. Gold prices fell on Wednesday with the Comex gold futures quote down by $US1.80 or 0.1 per cent to $US1,283.40 per ounce. Iron ore fell by US70c or 0.8 per cent on Wednesday to $US88.20 a tonne.

Ahead: In Australia, capital expenditure and new home sales data are released. The Tasmanian Budget is handed down. In the US, revised economic growth (GDP) figures are released with weekly jobless claims data, pending home sales and the Kansas City Federal Reserve manufacturing index.

Craig James is chief economist at Commsec.

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