US stock markets ended lower on Wednesday as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said she didn’t expect the central bank would refrain from implementing the rate hikes this year. At the same time she acknowledged higher risks for global growth prospects pointing to less supportive financial conditions and uncertainty about China. The testimony was largely in line with expectations, although the Fed Chair was a bit more cautious about US economy’s outlook than in previous statements and indicated the hikes would be gradual. The dollar weakened, the live dollar index shows the ICE US Dollar index declined 0.1% to 95.958. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6% to 15914.74. The S&P 500 edged lower 0.02% to 1851.86 with materials and energy stocks leading the decliners as oil fell. Only health care and technology stocks of the ten main sectors of S&P 500 finished in the positive territory, up 0.9% and 0.4% respectively. Walt Disney shares dropped 3.8% after reporting lower profit at its ESPN sports network. Cisco Systems jumped 7.3% to $24.15 after it reported better than expected profit. Nasdaq Composite edged 0.4% higher on the back of gains in technology stocks. Today at 16:00 CET Janet Yellen will testify to Senate Banking Committee. At 14:30 CET Initial Jobless Claims and Continuing Claims will be released in US. The tentative outlook is negative. At 16:30 CET Natural Gas Storage Change will be released by the Energy Information Agency.
European markets closed higher on Wednesday as investors bargain hunted stocks that were beaten down in a seven session selloff. The euro edged lower trading at $1.1269 late Wednesday compared with $1.1289 late Tuesday. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rallied 1.9%, with both Germany’s and France’s stock market indexes DAX 30 and CAC 40 gaining 1.6%. Great Britain’s FTSE 100 index rose 0.7%. Markets shrugged off disappointing economic data which showed industrial production in December compared with the previous month fell in UK and France. Bank stocks rebounded after heavy selloff in previous sessions. Deutsche Bank shares soared 10% on news the German bank is considering buying back billions of euros of its own bonds. UBS Group rose 5.4%, Commerzbank stocks jumped 8.2%. Today Eurogroup euro- zone finance ministers meet at 14:30 CET in Brussels.
The yen is rising against the dollar for the fourth session while Japanese markets are closed today for a National Foundation Day holiday. Stocks in Hong Kong fell sharply today as the market reopened after Lunar New Year holiday. Markets in mainland China will reopen on Monday.
Oil prices are edging lower today after Brent crude recorded a gain while WTI fell to three week low on Wednesday. March WTI fell 1.8% to $27.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as investors focused on OPEC forecast of slower global demand growth despite a fall in US crude production and inventory. April Brent crude gained 1.7% to $30.84 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. OPEC said it expects world oil demand to grow by 1.25 million barrels a day to average 94.21 million barrels a day this year, down 10,000 barrels a day from the previous forecast. Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that prices will remain below $40 per barrel until the second half of the year due to overhang in oil supplies and economic slowdown in China.
Gold is rising today with spot gold breaching over $1,200 level and hitting $1,213.00 an ounce. Gold is benefiting from buying by central banks as well as Chinese investors and higher risk aversion recently which boosts demand for safe-haven gold.