INTL UPDATE: Europe


Global stocks extended losses Thursday ahead of the Easter holiday weekend, as a stronger US dollar and weaker commodities slow down the recent global rally.

European equities slipped for a fourth straight session on Thursday, with weaker commodities prices and hawkish comments from another Fed official putting pressure on the broader stock market.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard joined a chorus of officials in highlighting the risk of at least two rate hikes this year, with the first perhaps as soon as April. Markets imply only one increase and dealers suspect an orchestrated attempt by the Fed to shift that thinking.

The STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index fell 3.4 percent, the top sectoral decliner, as a firmer dollar made metals costlier for holders of other currencies and dragged down prices of major industrial metals. Shares in Anglo American, Glencore, Rio Tinto and Fresnillo fell 3.9 to 6.2 percent.

Equity markets are moving into the Easter holiday long weekend on a more cautious note, with a stronger dollar following some hawkish Fed comments weighing on the commodities space.

The STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index also fell 1.8 percent, dragged down by a 1.6 to 2.1 percent drop in shares of Royal Dutch Shell, Total and BP.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 1.1 percent on the last trading day of the week, with volumes likely to remain thin ahead of the Easter holidays. Stock markets in Denmark and Norway were already shut on Thursday, while Sweden had a half-day trading.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index, down 1.7 percent this week, headed for a second straight week of losses.

Some companies slipped after warning on their outlook. Next slumped 9 percent after the British clothing retailer posted a 5 percent rise in annual profit, but cautioned 2016 could be the toughest it has faced since 2008 as it anticipates a more difficult economic environment.

Mid-cap company Renishaw fell more than 11 percent after the British precision engineering company firm cut its full-year revenue and earnings forecasts, citing lack of large orders from the Far East this year.

Shares in Italy’s Banco Popolare and Banca Popolare di Milano (BPM) were volatile after they agreed to merge in a much-anticipated deal to create the country’s third-biggest bank.

Banco Popolare shares were suspended from trading after a rise of 5.9 percent. Popolare di Milano opened more than 4 percent higher, but were last up 0.7 percent.

The Stoxx Europe 600 was down 1.3% halfway through the day, following downbeat sessions in Asia and on Wall Street.

Falls in oil and metals priced weighed on mining and energy companies, sending shares in resources giant Anglo American PLC down 7.5%, while the world’s biggest steelmaker ArcelorMittal SA lost 7%.

Futures pointed to a 0.6% opening loss for the S&P 500. Changes in futures do not necessarily reflect market moves after the opening bell.

Wall Street has ended higher for five consecutive weeks, bolstered by a softer dollar, rising commodities prices and a more dovish stance on interest rates from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

But upbeat comments from Fed officials and U.S. regional sentiment surveys have boosted the dollar and weakened commodities prices in recent sessions, putting major indexes around the world on track to end the holiday-shortened trading week in negative territory.

The dollar continued to strengthen against the euro, yen and emerging markets currencies on Thursday after St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard suggested Wednesday that an interest rate rise in April was possible.

The euro was last down 0.2% against the dollar at $1.1166, while the dollar was up 0.3% against the yen at ¥112.7390.

“There is some recognition that nobody really benefits at this point from a dollar that continues to strengthen,” said Mark Haefele, global chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management, adding that Mr. Bullard’s comments were a warning that the Fed might not boost markets much further from here.

Commodities fell across the board on Thursday. Copper and iron ore prices were lower, while Brent crude oil fell 2.2% to $39.57 a barrel, bringing weekly losses to 4%. Even gold was down, falling by 0.3% in London as investors reacted to the rising dollar.

In the banking sector, Italian cooperative banks Banco Popolare SC and Banca Popolare di Milano Scarl agreed to merge in a deal set to create Italy’s third-largest bank by assets. Shares of Asia-focused Standard Chartered PLC fell over 7%.

Losses in Europe followed a weak session in Asia, where Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.6% after a summary of opinions from Bank of Japan policy makers illustrated rising tension over negative rates. Australia’s commodity-heavy S&P ASX 200 fell 1%.

Stocks in Shanghai fell 1.6% amid concerns about increased short selling and after Chinese authorities guided the yuan weaker against the dollar in the biggest one-day depreciation since early January.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang said the country was working to address volatility in its economy and that Beijing wouldn’t deliberately weaken the yuan to boost exports.

On Wednesday, Wall Street ended lower in light trade, as declines in the oil price weighed on shares of energy companies.

U.S. investors will focus on weekly jobless claims and durable goods data due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, as they wonder how long this post-rally dip will last.

One month ago  the market was frightened of recession, downturn and even deflation.

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