AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Morning Markets: US optimism pushes stock markets mostly higher

July 18, 2018 - 8:41 am
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By ANNABELLE LIANG, Associated Press

SINGAPORE (AP) — World markets mostly rose Wednesday, spurred by the U.S. Federal Reserve's positive assessment of the U.S. economy and signs that industrial production is steady.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany's DAX added 0.7 percent to 12,751 and the CAC 40 in France gained 0.5 percent to 5,451. The FTSE 100 index was 0.6 percent higher at 7,673. U.S. stocks were set for a flat open, with Dow and S&P 500 futures both roughly unchanged.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.4 percent to 22,794.19. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 2,290.11 as the country's government downgraded its forecasts for job creation and growth. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.2 percent to 28,117.42. The Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.4 percent to 2,787.26. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.7 percent to 6,245.10. Shares rose in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

UPBEAT FED COMMENT: Delivering his twice-a-year report on monetary policy to Congress, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he expects the job market to remain robust and inflation to hover around the Fed's 2 percent target for the next few years. Stocks have fallen after Powell's previous major addresses, but not on Tuesday. Powell is scheduled to address lawmakers again on Wednesday.

U.S. INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION: The Fed said U.S. industrial production, including output at factories, mines and utilities, climbed 0.6 percent in June. It fell 0.5 percent in May after a fire disrupted production of Ford Motor's F-series pickup trucks, America's bestselling vehicle. U.S. manufacturing still looks healthy despite trade conflicts with China, Europe and Canada and a rising dollar that makes U.S. products more expensive abroad.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: "Buoyancy in the European session merely carries forward the theme handed down from U.S. overnight and perpetuated in most of Asia today. The driver appears to be an upbeat Powell who isn't unpliant," said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 53 cents to $67.55 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract was relatively unchanged at $68.08 in New York on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 44 cents to $71.72 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.97 yen from 112.83 yen late Tuesday, while the euro eased to $1.1607 from $1.1664. The pound fell heavily, to $1.3020 from $1.3116, after weak inflation figures lowered the chances of an interest rate hike in August.

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