Scoreboard: Smooth-talking Putin

Markets on both sides of the Atlantic rose after the Russian President adopted a softer stance on the Ukraine conflict, while oil prices slumped on weak European data and demand concerns.

In US economic news, new claims for unemployment insurance rose by 21,000 in the latest week to 311,000, above forecasts for a result near 295,000. Import prices fell by 0.2 per cent in July while export prices were flat. Both results were slightly firmer than forecast. 

European shares rose on Thursday after the Russian President Vladimir Putin made comments to the effect that Russia would seek to end the conflict in Ukraine. But investors also had to dissect news that the German economy contracted by 0.2 per cent in the June quarter. The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose by 0.3 per cent while the German Dax was up 0.3 per cent and the UK FTSE edged up 0.4 per cent. Australia's major miners were weaker in London trade with shares in BHP Billiton down up 0.7 per cent while Rio Tinto was lower by 1.4 per cent.

US sharemarkets rose on Thursday with investors encouraged by conciliatory comments from the Russian President. Shares in Wal-Mart rose by 0.5 per cent in response to its latest earnings result. Shares in Boeing rose by 1.8 per cent after the company reported strong demand for commercial jetliners. The Dow Jones index rose by almost 62 points or 0.4 per cent with the S&P 500 index up by 0.4 per cent while the Nasdaq gained almost 19 points or 0.4 per cent.

US treasury prices were firmer (yields lower) again on Thursday in response to softer-than-expected European economic data. Traders also reported firm demand for a $16 billion auction of 30-year bonds. Yields of 30-year treasuries fell to the lowest levels since May 2013. US 2-year yields fell by less than 1 point to 0.416 per cent while US 10-year yields fell by 2 points to 2.40 per cent. 

Major currencies were modestly firmer against the US dollar after the close of the European and US sessions on Thursday. The euro rose from lows near $US1.3350 to around $US1.3405 before ending US trade near $US1.3365. The Aussie dollar rose from lows near US92.90c to highs near US93.25c, ending the US session near US93.15c. And the Japanese yen lifted from 102.61 yen per US dollar to JPY102.30, ending US trade near JPY102.45.

World oil prices slumped on Thursday in response to weak European economic data and perceptions that the world was well supplied with crude. Brent crude fell by $US2.27 or 2.2 per cent to $US102.01 a barrel while the US Nymex price fell by $US2.01 a barrel or 2.1 per cent to $US95.58 a barrel.

Base metal prices were generally lower on Thursday by up to 1.1 per cent with aluminium and lead down the most. But nickel rose 0.7 per cent with tin up 0.2 per cent. Gold prices rose modestly again on Thursday against a softer greenback with the Comex gold futures quote up by $US1.20 to $US1,315.70 per ounce. Iron ore was unchanged on Thursday at $US93.20 a tonne. 

Ahead: In Australia, ANZ releases its third quarter update. In the US, industrial production, consumer sentiment, producer prices and capital flows data are released.

Craig James is chief economist at Commsec.

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