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Europe: Stocks limp into weekend

Saturday, November 26, 2016 - 06:24

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[LONDON] European stock markets drifted higher Friday, as Tokyo again pushed higher thanks to a weaker yen while Wall Street pushed higher after Thanksgiving.

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index added 0.2 per cent, as unrevised official data showed Britain's economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the third quarter.

The update came two days after the UK government said Britain's economy would grow far slower than expected next year as state borrowing jumps mainly as a result of a projected financial fallout from Brexit.

"Anyone looking for a busy day on Europe's markets would probably have been better off doing a bit of on-line shopping because trading activity has been somewhat muted, with US markets only opening for half a day, but still continuing to set new records," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London.

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Frankfurt's DAX 30 edged up 0.09 per cent and Paris added 0.2 per cent.

"The only real piece of weighty news today was UK GDP, and even this didn't really cause much excitement, given the quarter-on-quarter figure was unchanged from the previous forecast," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG trading group.

Wall Street pushed higher as US traders returned from Thanksgiving holiday, with shares of leading retailers rising as the holiday shopping season kicked off amid expectations of solid sales.

The Dow was showing a gain of 0.3 per cent in late morning, with trading set end at 1pm.

With traders confident the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates before Christmas, the US dollar has been cruising along, hitting record highs against India's rupee and the Turkish lira and touching multi-month highs elsewhere.

The US dollar lost a bit of steam on Friday with many US investors expected to take a long holiday weekend.

The US dollar's advance has come hand in hand with a rally across world markets since Donald Trump's shock presidential election win, with dealers expecting his big spending, low tax plans will boost the world's top economy.

However, there are some concerns inside emerging market governments about his campaign pledge to review global trade deals, which could lead to an era of protectionism and throw up huge US tariffs.

While trading has been slow on Friday, next week the pace is expected to pick up.

"As well as the much-anticipated Opec-meeting and top-tier Chinese economic data, we will also have important macro pointers from the world's largest economy, which should provide the clearest indication yet if the Fed will indeed raise interest rates come December 14," said market analyst Fawad Razaqzada at Forex.com.

US third quarter GDP data and monthly employment data are to be released.

In Asian trading hours Friday, the US dollar hit an eight-month high at 113.90 yen - providing more support for Japan's exporters - before falling back in European trades.

Japan's Nikkei stocks index came off earlier highs but still ended 0.3-per cent higher, its seventh straight gain.

Another weak reading on Japanese consumer prices meant any monetary tightening by Japan's central bank was unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Oil prices tumbled after Saudi Arabia pulled out of some preliminary talks ahead of key Opec meeting next week on how to implement a deal aimed at boosting prices.

"There appears to be some scepticism setting in that we'll see any meaningful deal come out of next week, with the positions of Iran and Russia likely to be particular sticking points," said CMC Markets's Mr Hewson.

Disagreements about how to share the burden of supply cuts have spilt into the public in recent days, with Iran insisting it be allowed to increase output to pre-sanctions levels and non-Opec Russia willing only to freeze, not reduce, production.

AFP

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