Market Commentary: Nine-month trend of low European consumer confidence continues

European shares closed lower yesterday with investors looking ahead to a key Federal Reserve policy meeting this week as well as a referendum on Scottish independence.

In his plea Prime Minister David Cameron urged Scotland’s voters to refrain from opting for an irreversible split, arguing that a risk-free independence was unrealistic.

Concerns regarding the upcoming vote are likely to curb risk sentiment in the near term. Polls currently show that the referendum is too close to call with both sides continuing to campaign hard. The upcoming vote - which will be held tomorrow with the result expected Friday morning - has led investors to expect a dip in the British currency and led to a sale of shares of Scottish companies, amongst concern about the widespread implications of the potential split-off.

Three polls last night showed the anti-independence Better Together group backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and the main U.K. parties leading the “yes” campaign by 52% to 48%, excluding undecided voters. All the latest surveys showed the gap was closing fast.

Elsewhere in Europe a nine-month trend of low consumer confidence continued, as consumers in Germany were less inclined to spend. The data was collected by the ZEW Center for European Economic Research. The gauge aims to predict economic developments in six months.

The slowdown in growth in Europe over the summer months led to investors being more cautious on European equities. The risk of a more hawkish Fed could further dampen investors’ appetite for stocks.

U.K. online retailer Asos reported fourth-quarter sales that saw a rise of 15 percent but the company highlighted that profits next year would be limited due to an uptick in investment; shares opened the session 14 percent lower and closed provisionally down 8.8 percent.

Shares of Thomas Cook slipped to end the day provisionally down 6.1 percent after the travel agent said that high levels of market capacity had led to some price softness in the sector.

Meanwhile, Air France-KLM saw its shares fall 3.3 percent with pilots staging a week-long strike in a dispute over cost cuts.

Also in France, Publicis shares rose 0.4 percent after it announced that it was parting company with COO Jean-Yves Naouri and confirmed its growth targets for 2018.

U.S. stocks rose and commodities rallied on a report that China’s central bank is boosting stimulus measures. The dollar fell as markets expect the Federal Reserve won’t be in a hurry to raise rates.

U.S. stocks ended higher on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 notching its best performance in a month after a news report shifted investor expectations for the Federal Reserve's policy statement Wednesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average  rose 100.96 points, or 0.59 percent, to 17,132.1, the S&P 500 gained 14.87 points, or 0.75 percent, to 1,999 and the Nasdaq Composite added 33.86 points, or 0.75 percent, to 4,552.76.

Copper rallied the most in 13 months and U.S. crude surged 2.1 percent. The Stoxx Europe600 dropped 0.3 percent, while emerging-market equities advanced after eight declines. Treasury 10-year note yields were little changed at 2.59 percent.

U.S. Energy stocks jumped 1.2 percent as a group, with Exxon Mobil Corp. adding 1.2 percent to pace gains in 28 of 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Utilities in the S&P 500 added 1.2 percent. Technology stocks climbed 0.7 percent after a sell-off yesterday.

The Fed began its two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, and the central bank implied that it wouldn't raise rates for a considerable time. Many investors interpreted that as mid-2015, though recent economic data has fueled speculation that the first hike could come sooner. Those concerns seemed to fade yesterday, with market participants seeing no change in Fed policy.

On Monday the People’s Bank of China started providing the banks with 100 billion yuan each through standing lending-facilities with durations of three months, the process was completed yesterday.

Global central banks from Japan to Europe and the U.S. have kept interest rates low and provided additional liquidity during a five-year bull market. The Fed is on track to end its monthly bond-buying next month. The move by China’s central bank adds weight to the increasing signs that growth is slowing in the world’s second-largest economy.

This article was issued by Calamatta Cuschieri, visit www.cc.com.mt for more information.

The information, view and opinions provided in this article is being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice, advice concerning particular investments or investment decisions, or tax or legal advice. Calamatta Cuschieri & Co. Ltd has not verified and consequently neither warrants the accuracy nor the veracity of any information, views or opinions appearing on this website.

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