Australian shares are likely to fall in early trade after a mixed performance across Wall Street and European markets.
Market snapshot at 7:45am (AEST):
- ASX SPI futures -0.1pc at 6,632, ASX 200 (Monday’s close) flat at 6,648
- AUD: 68.65 US cents, 55.59 British pence, 62.11 euro cents, 73.61 Japanese yen, $NZ1.07
- US: Dow Jones +0.1pc at 26,835, S&P 500 flat at 2,978, Nasdaq -0.2pc at 8,087
- Europe: FTSE 100 -0.6pc at 7,236, DAX +0.3pc at 12,226, CAC -0.3pc at 5,589, Euro Stoxx 50 flat at 3,495
- Commodities: Brent crude +1.9pc at $US62.71/barrel, spot gold -0.5pc at $US1,499.34/ounce, iron ore +4.4pc at $US92.97/tonne
By 7:30am (AEST), ASX futures were down nine points, or 0.1 per cent.
The Australian dollar, meanwhile, had risen to 68.6 US cents, its highest level in five weeks.
US markets had a directionless trading day as increased expectations of stimulus from central banks around the world were offset by losses in technology and healthcare shares.
The S&P 500 financial index was among the day’s best-performing groups, rising 1.5 per cent, with banks gaining 3.2 per cent and US Treasury yields up on rising bets of an interest rate cut at the US Federal Reserve’s September meeting.
Cementing those expectations, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said late last week the central bank would “act as appropriate” to sustain economic expansion, a phrase financial markets have read as a sign of an impending rate cut.
The Dow Jones index lifted marginally higher, up 0.1 per cent to 26,835 points.
The benchmark S&P 500 was flat, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 0.2 per cent.
Investors in ‘wait-and-see’ mode
“This is kind of the eye of the storm” as investors await more news on interest rates or trade, Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management, said.
“For the market to move significantly higher from here, we’d really need to see something happen on trade.”
Stocks rose last week largely on easing worries about US-China trade negotiations.
“The market is absorbing those gains from last week, and … is in a wait-and-see [mode] regarding the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting,” Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, said.
The ECB is expected to introduce new stimulus measures at its meeting on Thursday.
“The consensus looks for the ECB to cut to the deposit rate by 10 basis points to -0.5 per cent, tiering of the deposit rate, and resuming QE [quantitative easing] at €30 billion ($48.3b) a month,” NAB economics director Tapas Strickland said.
Google under investigation
Meanwhile, attorneys-general from 48 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have opened an investigation into big tech companies, focusing on Google.
The states of California and Alabama are not part of the investigation.
Their probe will look at Google’s dominance in the advertising market and use of consumer data, and whether it is in breach of US competition laws.
Shares in Google’s parent company, Alphabet, briefly dropped 1 per cent during trading, but managed to recover most of the losses to close just 0.1 per cent lower.
Several of the attorneys-general at the announcement in Washington described the investigation as “preliminary” but said they expected it would expand to cover other issues including data privacy.
Google specifically has faced accusations its web search service, which has become so dominant it is now a verb, leads consumers to its own products at the cost of competitors.
Arkansas Attorney-General Leslie Rutledge called Google’s online search engine a “juggernaut”, and argued a free search sometimes came at the cost of the freedom to choose the best products from the best companies.
The tech giants that were once praised as engines of economic growth with massive efficiencies have increasingly come under fire for allegedly misusing their clout in the market and lapses such as privacy breaches.
US President Donald Trump has called for closer scrutiny of social media firms and Google, accusing them of suppressing conservative voices online without presenting any evidence.
Google said in a statement on Friday it would work constructively with them. It had no further comment on Monday.
Pound rises to six-week high
In Europe, London’s export-heavy FTSE 100 index fell by 0.6 per cent after the British pound hit a six-week high against the US greenback (at $US1.2382).
However, the Australian dollar has risen 0.2 per cent to 55.6 British pence.
Investors are betting that the chance of a no-deal Brexit is becoming increasingly unlikely.
Spot gold has fallen to a two-week low of $US1,498.53 per ounce.
Oil prices jumped to a six-week high after the new Saudi Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, confirmed expectations he would stick with his country’s policy of limiting crude output to support prices.
Brent crude prices lifted 2 per cent to $US62.73 a barrel.