Shares flat, oil falls as eyes turn to US ‘fiscal cliff’
NEW YORK — World shares were little changed but commodity prices slipped on Thursday as investors looked past the Federal Reserve’s announcement on Wednesday of further monetary stimulus and re-focused on the unresolved showdown over the US "fiscal cliff."
Wall Street stocks opened slight lower, following declines in European equity markets, and the US dollar was little changed against the euro after three days of declines.
Analysts said news on US government efforts to avert some $600bn in spending cuts and tax hikes due in January would likely drive financial markets after the Fed announced on Wednesday it would explicitly link its policy path to unemployment and inflation.
Negotiations are expected to continue Thursday on the "fiscal cliff" with Republicans at a growing public opinion disadvantage and approval ratings for US President Barack Obama rising to levels not seen since the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Data showing US retail sales rose in November and jobless claims fell sharply last week were hopeful signs for an economy that appears to have slowed sharply in the fourth quarter, but the news did little to budge the market.
"Consumers have recovered somewhat after October’s drop in sales but the trend has been declining since last June," Joseph Trevisani, chief market strategist at Worldwide Markets, Woodcliff Lake in New Jersey, said of November retail sales.
"When the results are adjusted for inflation, these are not numbers that will bring the Fed’s employment goals any closer."
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.45 points, or 0.01%, at 13,244.00. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 0.86 points, or 0.06%, at 1,427.62.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.95 points, or 0.06%, at 3,011.86.
MSCI’s all-country world equity index, which had seen seven straight days of gains, rose 0.04% at 337.91 points.
In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 0.31% to 1,136.14 points, ending a three-week rally that had pushed prices to 18-month highs.
Crude oil prices slipped under $109 a barrel due to rising US oil stockpiles, while fears that the world’s largest economy might miss a deadline for next year’s budget and risk a recession also kept bulls in check.
Benchmark Brent crude fell 90 cents to $108.60 a barrel, while US crude was at $86.31, down 46 cents.
The benchmark 10-year US Treasury note was down 7/32 in price to yield 1.7247%.