Scoreboard: Stocks ease

Lower oil prices caused European and US sharemarkets to dip across the board, while base metal prices strengthened.

In US economic data, the consumer confidence index rose from 91.0 to 92.6 in December, just short of expectations centred on a result near 93.0. The Case Shiller home price index rose by 0.8 per cent in October to stand 4.5% on a year ago. Economists had tipped a 4.4 per cent annual gain. Chain store sales were up by 5.4 per cent in the latest week on a year earlier. And the Dallas Federal Reserve services index eased from 25.4 to 20.5 in December.

European shares eased on Tuesday. There was the usual profit-taking and end-year position taking. And lower oil prices and worries about the Greek political situation influenced trade. The FTSEurofirst 300 index fell by 1.0 per cent. The German Dax fell by 1.2 per cent to end the year up 2.7 per cent (closed on Wednesday). The UK FTSE fell by 1.3%. In London trade shares in BHP Billiton lost 1.2 per cent while Rio Tinto rose by 0.9 per cent.

US sharemarkets eased across the board in thin trade ahead of the end of the month, quarter and year. lower oil price. With just over an hour of trade to go, the Dow Jones was down by 51 points or 0.3 per cent after trading in a tight 76 point range. The S&P 500 index was down by 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq was down by 23 points or 0.5%.

US treasuries rose on Tuesday (yields lower) as investors took profits on stocks at the end of month, quarter and year and put the money to work in government bonds. US 2-year yields fell by six points to 0.688 per cent while US 10-year yields fell by seven points to 2.19 per cent.

Major currencies rose against the greenback in European and US trade on Tuesday. The euro rose from lows near $US1.2125 to highs near $US1.2185, and was around $US1.2155 in late US trade. The Aussie dollar rose from lows near US81.25c to highs around US82.00c and was trading near US81.80c in late US trade. And the Japanese yen lifted from 120.47 yen per US dollar to JPY118.86 and was near JPY119.52 in late US trade.

World oil prices were slightly firmer on end-year bargain hunting by investors on Tuesday. Traders focussed on a firmer greenback, supply disruptions in Libya and continued over-supply by US oil producers. Brent crude rose by US2c or less than 0.1 per cent to $US57.90 a barrel while the US Nymex crude price rose by US51c or 1.0 per cent to $US54.12 a barrel.

Base metal prices were stronger in response to a weaker greenback on the London Metal Exchange on Tuesday. Lead rose 3.0 per cent with zinc up 2.0 per cent but aluminium fell by 0.1 per cent. Gold rose on Tuesday with the Comex gold futures price up by $US18.50 an ounce or 1.6 per cent to $US1,200.40 per ounce. Iron ore rose by $US3.30 to US$71.20 a tonne on Tuesday.

Ahead: In Australia, private sector credit data is released. In China, the final December reading on the HSBC Purchasing Managers index for manufacturing is released. In the US, weekly jobless claims data is released with pending home sales and the Chicago purchasing managers index.