Global stocks down as investors eye US data

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Global stock markets dipped on Monday as investors awaited the release of U.S. data for clearer signs about when the Federal Reserve will cut its monetary stimulus.

Trading volumes were low after a long weekend in the U.S. and ahead of year-end holidays. But a slew of U.S. data this week on manufacturing, home sales and jobs will garner attention as they could provide clues on when the Fed will taper its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases. The Fed's next policy meeting is on Dec. 17-18.

"Over coming days, there will be plenty of evidence to finalize opinions about what the Fed will do at its December 17-18 meeting," said Mitul Kotecha, analyst at Credit Agricole CIB, in a note to clients. "We maintain the view that the Fed will likely begin to taper in January."

The Fed's stimulus has kept interest rates low to support economic recovery in the U.S. but also propelled money into higher yielding stocks. Shifts in expectations about when the stimulus will be withdrawn have driven markets in recent months and could decide how they end the year. Most economists think the Fed will maintain the stimulus until early next year, rather than start reducing it in December.

As trading got underway in Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.8 percent to 6,600.45 and France's CAC-40 eased 0.3 percent to 4,280.95. Germany's DAX was flat at 9,406.33.

Wall Street futures pointed to lackluster trading — S&P 500 futures were down almost 0.1 percent and Dow futures were flat.

Also weighing on markets was evidence that retail sales in the U.S. underwhelmed over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the kick-off to the Christmas shopping season. Although a record number of people visited shops, the amount they spent was expected to be down for the first time since at least 2006, a survey found.

In Asia, Thailand's benchmark was up 0.2 percent after reversing losses in the wake of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's refusal to bow to the demands of protesters trying to topple her government. Police, meanwhile, repelled protesters trying to occupy the prime minister's offices and other key government buildings. A weekend of chaos in pockets of Bangkok killed at least three people and injured dozens.

China's Shanghai's Composite Index dropped 0.6 percent to 2,207.37 after two surveys showed the Chinese manufacturing sector barely expanded in November, further evidence the recovery in the world's No.2 economy is muted. Expectations of more initial public offerings in the pipeline, which could take investment away from existing listings, also weighed.

Japan's Nikkei 225 eased 0.04 percent to 15,655.07, Seoul's Kospi dropped 0.7 percent to 2,030.78 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.8 percent to 5,279.50.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.7 percent to 24,038.50. Excepting Thailand, markets in Southeast Asia rose.

In energy markets, benchmark crude for January delivery was up 12 cents to $92.86 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 42 cents to close at $92.72 on Friday.

The euro fell 0.3 percent to $1.3541 while the dollar rose 0.3 percent to 102.77 yen.

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