BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets posted modest gains Wednesday after improving consumer confidence and rising home prices suggested the U.S. economy is rebounding. European stocks slipped ahead of economic indicators.
Germany releases unemployment data later in the day that analysts said would likely remain near their relatively low levels. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was also set to deliver its May economic outlook for the 17 countries that use the euro.
Michael Hewson of CMC Markets said in a market commentary that "the findings aren't likely to be positive with France in particular set to be in the spotlight as its economy continues to diverge away from Germany's."
Britain's FTSE 100 fell 1.1 percent to 6,686.06. Germany's DAX shed 1 percent to 8,396.59. France's CAC-40 was down 1 percent to 4,009.80.
Wall Street was also heading toward losses, with Dow Jones industrial futures falling 0.3 percent to 15,320 and S&P 500 futures down 0.4 percent 1,647.80.
In Asia, stocks finished modestly higher on the heels of a new record for the Dow, hit Tuesday, after the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller survey found that U.S. home prices rose 10.9 percent in March, the most since April 2006. On top of that, the Conference Board in Washington reported consumer confidence rising to a five-year high.
"Market sentiment was given a lift overnight with the US consumer confidence index coming in higher than expected and the house price indices showing stronger gains, indicating a strong underlying momentum in the economy in the face of fiscal restraint," said Anthony Lam of Credit Agricole CIB in a commentary.
The figures are particularly encouraging because they indicate that U.S. consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the world's largest economy, is firmly recovering.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.1 percent to close at 14,326.46. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.8 percent to 2,001.20. Benchmarks in Taiwan, mainland China, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines also rose. Hong Kong's Hang Seng tumbled 1.6 percent to 22,554.93.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 reversed early losses, sparked by a sell-off among overseas investors as the Aussie dollar weakened against the greenback. The index rose 0.1 percent to 4,974.70. There were also hints of a slight weakening in the Australian economy after data showed a 2 percent decline in construction for the March quarter.
Defensive stocks, especially banking shares, took the brunt of the hit, said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, while miners gained on rising commodities prices. Rio Tinto Ltd. gained 3.4 percent while Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 2.5 percent.
"It's just a battle of how much the miners move up and the banks move down," said Lucas.
Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 66 cents to $94.75 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract for the benchmark grade rose 86 cents to close at $95.01 on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2886 from $1.2876 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 101.60 from 102.08 yen.
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