World markets retreat after last week's rally

December 1, 2008 5:10:38 AM PST
Asian and European markets fell Monday as investors paused after last week's rally and digested signs that the U.S. holiday shopping season got off to a modest start over the Thanksgiving weekend. The declines came despite gains Friday on Wall Street, which notched its first five-day advance since July 2007. Some traders held back ahead of the Institute for Supply Management's November manufacturing survey due later Monday for further clues about the strength of the U.S. economy, a vital export market.

Investors "aren't sure what they're supposed to do at this point," said Tsuyoshi Nomaguchi, a strategist for Daiwa Securities in Tokyo.

India's benchmark Sensex index reversed early gains, falling 2.8 percent to 8,839.87 in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that left 172 people dead.

In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average lost 115.05 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 8,397.22 after advancing 7.6 percent last week. Investors sold exporters as the yen strengthened, which erodes their overseas earnings.

Markets in South Korea, Australia and Singapore also fell.

As trading opened in Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 2.2 percent at 4,192.38. Germany's DAX was 3.1 percent lower at 4,522.98 and France's CAC-40 slipped 2.5 percent to 3,179.71.

Stocks in Thailand reversed early gains as investors weighed prospects that the country's political crisis will be resolved soon. Anti-government protesters have occupied Bangkok's two main airports for nearly a week, cutting off air freight, stranding tourists and crippling the economy. The benchmark SET index fell 2.7 percent to 390.92.

Bucking the trend were Hong Kong and mainland China, where key indices rose on expectations of further measures by the Chinese government to boost the economy after last month's big interest rate cut and anouncement of a multibillion dollar stimulus package.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed up 220.60 points, or 1.6 percent, to 14,108.84, continuing its rally from last week, when it rose nearly 10 percent. China's Shanghai Composite index gained 1.3 percent to 1,894.61.

"These are the appetizers of a full meal," said Winson Fong, managing director at SG Asset Management in Hong Kong, which overseas about $3 billion in equities in Asia, referring to those earlier measures. "It's not the end."

Reports from the U.S. showed modest gains in retail sales on Black Friday - the traditional start of the American holiday shopping season - but business appeared to fall off during the rest of the weekend, at least according to some accounts, and analysts said crowds were thinner than last year. Also, sales gains seemed to come at the expense of profits as companies slashed prices to lure shoppers.

Investors around the world are paying close attention to the weekend sales figures for clues on the strength of the American economy, a vital export market.

According to preliminary figures released Saturday by ShopperTrak RCT, a research firm that tracks total retail sales at more than 50,000 outlets, sales rose 3 percent to $10.6 billion on Friday from the same day a year ago. A more complete sales picture of how the Thanksgiving shopping weekend fared won't be known until Thursday when the nation's retailers report November same-store sales, or sales at stores opened at least a year.

"We don't know if it's driven by sales or if U.S. consumers are getting their confidence back," said SG Asset Management's Fong.

The declines came despite Wall Street's gains on Friday, when the Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.2 percent to 8,829.04 for its fifth straight gain. For the week, the Dow climbed 9.7 percent for the week and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index jumped 12 percent.

U.S. stock futures were down, suggesting Wall Street would open lower Monday. Dow futures were down 159 points, or 1.8 percent, to 8,662, and S&P futures were down 19.7 points, or 2.2 percent, to 875.6.

Oil prices fell to below $52 a barrel after OPEC declined to cut production at an informal meeting in Cairo on Saturday. Light, sweet crude for January delivery was down $2.44 to $51.99 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currencies, the dollar declined to 93.73 yen from 95.48 in New York late Friday. The euro fell to $1.2651.

__

Associated Press writers Shino Yuasa and Tomoko A. Hosaka in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Morey money-related links:

Load Comments