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US: Wall St shrugs off Europe, Japan losses; S&P at 7-month high


[NEW YORK] The S&P 500 hit a seven-month high Thursday as Wall Street brushed off losses in Japanese and European markets, with US investors confident ahead of Friday's May jobs report.

Trade in US markets opened lower after Tokyo shares lost 2.3 per cent following the postponement of a long-planned sales tax hike, and as European markets dragged after the European Central Bank stood pat on policy, offering nothing bulls could bite on.

But US shares reversed course and ended with gains helped by a modest rise in oil prices and expectations for a solid but not huge gain in jobs in the US employment data.

The day's big event, the Opec meeting in Vienna, ended as expected without any action to shore up the market, whether a production cap or cut across the cartel.

Crude prices fell more than one percent, but later rebounded for small gains after US data showed a fall in stockpiles. West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery rose 16 cents to US$49.17 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for August advanced 32 cents to US$50.04.

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That helped oil stocks cut losses and, at the end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were both up 0.3 per cent for the day.

"No real big move. We really fell into lockstep with energy prices," said Art Hogan of Wunderlich Securities of Wall Street's performance.

"Energy was lower and rebounded and closed in positive territory, so we're just higher with that. We rallied a bit but nothing monumental."

Among Europe's main indices, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index ended the day down 0.1 per cent and the CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.2 per cent. However Frankfurt's DAX 30 managed a gain of 0.03 per cent.

The ECB managed to offer a little good news, raising slightly its growth and inflation forecasts for the eurozone this year, even as it gave no new policy direction.

ECB President Mario Draghi pulled off a canny balancing act in his comments to reporters, noted Claus Vistesen of Pantheon Macroeconomics, showing both confidence and caution in a way that does not send the euro sharply higher.

"The ECB wants to make sure that the market does not confuse its confidence in the effectiveness of monetary stimulus with hawkishness," Mr Vistesen said.

The markets got the message. The euro slid 0.3 per cent to US$1.1154.

The yen, meanwhile, powered higher, to 108.88 per dollar and 121.44 per euro.

The pound, which has fallen since the beginning of the week on worries over the coming Brexit referendum, was slightly higher at US$1.4424.


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