Thursday, January 28, 2010

President Speaks. Asia, Europe Jump; US Flat

US stocks were mixed in early trading after a flurry of upbeat earnings were offset by disappointing reports on weekly jobless claims and durable goods.

The mixed opening comes a day after President Barack Obama said the government should take new actions to bolster the economy and create jobs.

Politics, not the economy, had been dictating trading over the past week. However, mixed signals about the economy coming from a fresh round of earnings and economic reports was the focus of trading early Thursday.

Obama’s focus on the economy in his first State of the Union speech and a seemingly less hostile attitude to the banks in the speech, coupled with further upbeat US corporate earnings reports, also helped.

Ford Motor reported 2009 full year earnings of $2.7 billion on Thursday, its first full-year profit since 2005.

Shoppers bought more of Colgate-Palmolive’s toothpaste, soaps and body washes, helping the consumer product maker boost its fourth-quarter profit by 27 percent.

And, the number of new claims for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week, fresh evidence the US job market remains a weak spot in the economic recovery. Orders to US factories for big-ticket manufactured goods posted a modest increase in December, but the gain was not enough to prevent orders from plunging by a record amount for the whole of 2009.

Elsewhere, stock markets recovered their poise on after the US Federal Reserve indicated that interest rates would not rise soon, while the euro fell below $1.40 as currency traders started to fret about the public finances in Portugal as well as those of Greece.

In Europe, the three main indexes were up about 0.5 percent.

Stocks around the world had been in retreat for most of the last week in the wake of Obama’s announcement that he plans to impose restrictions on banks more risky trading activities.

Earlier, Asian stocks snapped their losing streak. World markets were due for a bounce after an extended slide, analysts said. In Asia, worries surrounding China’s measures to cool its economy are likely to hold investors back in the coming weeks and months.

“The DEFCON level has definitely been decreased, but no one is looking to hoover up huge amounts of stock yet,” said Ben Collett of Louis Capital Markets in Hong Kong. “There’s still a lot of caution.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average jumped 162.21 points, or 1.6 percent, to 10,414.29 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 323.30 points, or 1.6 percent, 20,356.37. South Korea’s Kospi advanced 1 percent to 1,642.43.

Shanghai’s market was up 0.3 percent, Australia added 0.6 percent and India’s index ticked up 0.1 percent. Taiwan’s market gained 1.8 percent.

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