Stocks: Weekly review
Asian stocks rose for the fourth day this week after fewer Americans filed unemployment claims, boosting confidence in the world’s largest economy and easing concern about oil prices and Middle East unrest.
Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest carmaker, climbed 1.2 percent in Tokyo as the dollar strengthened against the yen, boosting the outlook for Japan’s export earnings. Canon Inc., the world’s No. 1 maker of cameras, advanced 1.8 percent in Tokyo. Li & Fung Ltd., the biggest supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., gained 4.4 percent in Hong Kong. BHP Billiton Ltd. climbed 1.5 percent in Sydney after copper rose to a two-week high in London yesterday.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 1 percent to 139.25 at 8:49 p.m. in Tokyo. It has gained 1.7 percent this week, on course for the highest close since Feb. 21. The gauge retreated 2.1 percent last week on concern political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa may jeopardize a global economic recovery.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index climbed 1.7 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 1.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index increased 1.2 percent.
European stocks fell this week, as European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet’s suggestions of a possible increase in interest rates and concern spurred by unrest in North Africa and the Middle East outweighed a drop in the U.S. unemployment rate.
Banking and automobile shares led the drop. United Business Media Ltd. sank as margins narrowed. Verbund AG plummeted as full-year profit missed expectations. Carrefour SA dropped 9.2 percent as brokerages including Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley cut their ratings. Arkema SA drove chemical shares higher.
The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index declined 0.8 percent to 281.9 this week. The gauge, which fell the most since July in the week ended Feb. 25, is still up 2.2 percent this year amid better-than-estimated corporate earnings and indications the global economy is gathering strength.
Fifty-six percent of Stoxx 600 companies that have announced earnings since Jan. 10 have beaten the average analyst estimate for per-share profit
The S&P 500 has climbed 0.3 percent this week, pushed up by reports showing claims for first-time jobless benefits decreased, U.S. businesses grew at the fastest pace in two decades and gauges of manufacturing and service industries climbed to the highest levels since at least 2005. Better-than- estimated data pushed the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index to its highest level ever
Average hourly earnings were unchanged in February, Labor Department data showed. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had forecast 0.2 percent growth. The data offset a 192,000 increase in payrolls and an unexpected decline in the unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, the lowest level since April 2009.
The labor market has improved slowly and it may take several years for the unemployment rate to reach a “more normal level,” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said March 1 during testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.
Private payrolls have increased for 12 straight months after plunging by as many as 841,000 jobs when President Barack Obama took office at the depths of the recession in January 2009, Labor Department data shows.
The recovery in the job market has helped propel a rebound in the U.S. equity market after the collapse of the subprime mortgage market triggered the worst bear market since the Great Depression. The S&P 500 rallied 97 percent from a 12-year low in March 2009 through yesterday, the biggest advance over the same period of time since 1930s, according to data compiled by Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P.
Crude rose amid concern unrest in Libya will spread to other Middle East oil producers, curbing exports, and as a falling U.S. jobless rate signaled that fuel demand will climb. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi sent troops to recapture towns in the western part of the country and prepared to quash protests in the capital, Tripoli.
Citigroup dropped 2.5 percent to $4.56. The third-largest U.S. bank was cut to “neutral” from “buy” by analysts at Bank of America, who also cut Goldman Sachs Group to “neutral” from “buy.” Goldman Sachs shares fell 1.4 percent to $162.18.
Marvell Technology fell 8.1 percent to $16.74. The maker of the processor that runs BlackBerry smartphones announced fourth- quarter adjusted earnings and revenue that missed estimates.
Monster Worldwide Inc. slipped 5.8 percent to $16.01. The online-recruiting company was cut to “market perform” from “outperform” at William Blair & Co.