Concern over US economy keeps markets in check

By Updated at 2012-07-20 12:17:39 +0000


LONDON (AP) — Evidence that the U.S. economic recovery remains weak kept global markets in check on Friday despite continued hopes for new stimulus measures.

In late morning trading in Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.4 percent at 5,701.05 while Germany's DAX was off 0.18 percent at 6,746.56. France's CAC 40 slipped 0.6 percent to 3,243.99.

Asian indexes mostly fell, and Wall Street was poised to lose ground on the open. Dow and S&P 500 futures were both down 0.1 percent.

Investors hope the Federal Reserve will in coming months announce new pro-growth stimulus measures if the U.S. economy does not improve — the jobs market is stagnant and many businesses are scaling back on production.

In a testimony to Congress this week, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no indication the central bank is considering imminent new stimulus but said it remains ready to act.

Latest data confirmed the U.S. economy is struggling. Weekly jobless claims rose 34,000 to a three-week high of 386,000 and an indicator of regional manufacturing was much weaker than anticipated. Homes sales and leading economic indicators were also soft.

Outside the U.S., investors are worried that China's economy is slowing and financially weak European countries like Spain continue to face high borrowing rates.

Finance ministers from the 17 euro countries will hold a teleconference on Friday to approve a bailout package of up to €100 billion ($122.9 billion) for Spain's banks. Though they will not agree or disclose the exact size of the package, they will agree on the key terms and conditions attached to the deal.

Spain's government 10-year borrowing rate broke through 7 percent on Friday amid worries that the government will face costs in the bank bailout deal and its economy is sliding deeper into recession.

"The outlook ... is clouded by uncertainty surrounding the Chinese and U.S. economies, in addition to lingering risk of a blowout in Europe," analysts at DBS Bank in Singapore said in a report.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.4 percent to 8,669.87 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.4 percent to 19,640.80. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.1 percent to 4,199.10 and China's Shanghai Composite dropped 0.7 percent to 2,168.64.

Markets in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and New Zealand also fell.

Benchmark oil was down $1.01 at $91.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract surged $2.79, about 3 percent, to $92.66 in New York on Thursday, its highest level since mid-May.

In currencies, the euro was down 0.4 percent to $1.2230. The dollar fell 0.1 percent to 78.56 yen.