The Business Times

US: Dow hits fresh record as S&P 500, Nasdaq retreat

Published Wed, Feb 22, 2017 · 10:36 PM

[NEW YORK] A strong run for world equities since President Donald Trump's election slowed Wednesday, although the Dow ended at another record.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished in negative territory, weighed down by weakness in oil-linked equities.

However, the Dow edged up to hit a new all-time high for the ninth straight day, marking the blue chip index' longest record streak in 30 years.

European equity markets finished slightly higher, while the Nikkei was flat.

Analysts have been girding for a pullback in US stocks following a run of records driven by anticipation of major tax cuts under Mr Trump. All three major equity indices had closed at records for seven of the last eight days heading into Wednesday's session.

"It is no surprise, then, that veteran market watchers are suggesting the market has moved too far, too fast, and that it is due for a breather," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

Minutes from the US Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting showed policymakers expect another rate hike "fairly soon," which fuels rising expectations the next increase could come in March.

Fed officials continue to expect gradual interest rate increases, but cited "heightened uncertainty" about possible US policies that could lift inflation, hastening the need for rate hikes.

Equity markets in Paris and Frankfurt got a lift from the latest developments in the French political election, as Emmanuel Macron, an independent candidate, won the support of Francois Bayrou, a veteran centrist.

The Macron/Bayrou ticket was credited with a good chance of keeping far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, whose anti-EU stance has spooked investors, out of power.

French bond prices spiked in response and the Paris stock market index also reversed early weakness to close slightly higher.

London hung on to positive territory by a thread, helped by a recovering financial sector as Lloyds posted strong results, pushing the bank's stock over four per cent higher.

Renewed optimism for banks also helped HSBC shares claw back two per cent after their spectacular drop Tuesday on worse-than-expected results.

The rest of the FTSE 100 index was helped by sterling heading lower in reaction to mixed UK growth data ahead of Brexit, analysts said.

Among individual stocks, both DuPont and Dow Chemical both jumped more than three per cent on reports the European Union could as soon as March approve their proposed merger.

In Japan, shares of Toshiba skyrocketed over 22 per cent Wednesday on hopes it will unload a stake in its prized chip business to shore up a battered balance sheet.

Japan's Nikkei business daily said Toshiba has asked potential bidders to peg its chip division's value at two trillion yen (S$24.9 billion) or more.



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