By Sinéad Carew
NEWYORK (Reuters) – Stock markets around the world were lower on Wednesday while U.S. Treasuries prices rose as investors favoured safer bets due to global economic and political fears, while the U.S. dollar surged and oil prices steadied after the previous day’s session.
Investors have been unnerved by a myriad of issues including some disappointing earnings reports, uncertainty over Brexit, Italy’s budget spat with the European Commission, and pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of a prominent journalist.
“Everyday we have a different worry. Today European growth numbers were definitely disappointing,” said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina who sees volatility potentially continuing until the Nov. 6 U.S. midterm elections.
The U.S. dollar climbed nearly one percent against the euro to its strongest level since August after PMI data showed business growth in the euro zone decelerated faster than expected due to waning orders.
And the European Commission rejected Italy’s draft 2019 budget, saying it broke EU rules on public spending, and asked Rome to submit a new one within three weeks.
While markets were still digesting the European data, U.S. data showed a fall in sales of new single-family homes to a near two-year low in September and numbers for the prior three months were revised lower.
Also, the S&P 500 briefly dipped further after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Beige Book of economic conditions focused more than usual on tariffs and talked about modest to moderate growth.
“Markets are still in flux and looking for a footing while the macro and micro data are mixed,” said John Augustine, Chief Investment Officer at Huntington National Bank in Columbus, Ohio citing the U.S. housing data and changes in the Beige Book.
“There’s still political overtones to stocks whether it’s China, Italy or Saudi Arabia or U.S. midterm elections. It can affect sentiment,” he said. “The confidence of long term equity buyers is still not present. Markets are more focused on headlines and technicals.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> fell 244.51 points, or 0.97 percent, to 24,946.92, the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 44.61 points, or 1.63 percent, to 2,696.08 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 202.55 points, or 2.72 percent, to 7,234.99.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index <.STOXX> lost 0.21 percent, failing to maintain gains from earlier in the session.
MSCI’s gauge of stock markets across the globe <.MIWD00000PUS> shed 1.25 percent. On Tuesday, the index had closed more than 11 percent below its January record close.
Treasury prices rose as investors were wary of volatile equities, though Treasury yields on Wednesday were above the three-week lows touched during Tuesday’s session.
Benchmark 10-year notes <US10YT=RR> last rose 11/32 in price to yield 3.1261 percent, from 3.166 percent late on Tuesday.
(GRAPHIC: World stocks slump in 2018 – https://tmsnrt.rs/2NWADMB)
Oil futures were mixed after a strong drawdown in U.S. gasoline and diesel inventories augured a coming seasonal rebound in refining demand.
U.S. crude <CLcv1> rose 0.45 percent to $66.73 per barrel and Brent <LCOcv1> was last at $76.04, down 0.52 percent on the day. [O/R]
Saudi Arabia, a major oil producer, is in the midst of a diplomatic storm over the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
In currencies, the euro fell 0.7 percent against the dollar <EUR=EBS> to its lowest since August,
The dollar index <.DXY> rose 0.47 percent, with the euro <EUR=> down 0.7 percent to $1.1389.
The Japanese yen strengthened 0.03 percent versus the greenback at 112.43 per dollar, while sterling <GBP=> was last trading at $1.2882, down 0.77 percent on the day.
British Prime Minister Theresa May received a show of support from her Conservative Party on Wednesday at a meeting in parliament, shifting focus away from talk of an imminent leadership challenge over her Brexit strategy..
U.S. gold futures <GCcv1> fell 0.26 percent to $1,233.60 an ounce as the dollar firmed and speculators locked in profit from a more than three-month peak hit in the previous session.
(Additional reporting by Sujata Rao in London; graphic by Marc Jones; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Chizu Nomiyama)