Australia Markets closed

International markets roundup

NEW YORK - The Dow and S&P 500 eked out record closing highs on Thursday, just turning higher at the last minute after a Politico report that Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell is the leading candidate for the nominee for Fed chair.

Stocks had been recovering from early losses for much of the afternoon ahead of the report, which came a day after the White House said US President Donald Trump will announce his decision on the matter in the "coming days".

"Clearly at the end it had everything to do with the speculation about Jerome Powell," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

"I can't observe any other reason for why we ended up."

"He's viewed to be sort of an extension of (current Fed Chair) Janet Yellen by way of being a policy dove ... and, with the market loving more of the same with regard to uber-accommodative monetary policy, as more welcome than the alternative."

Powell was among several names that have circulated as possible picks, including Yellen.

Other names include Trump's chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh and Stanford University economist John Taylor.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 5.44 points, or 0.02 per cent, to end at 23,163.04, the S&P 500 gained 0.84 point, or 0.03 per cent, to 2,562.1 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 19.15 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 6,605.07.

Tech shares were among the day's biggest drags, led by Apple , which fell 2.4 per cent as doubts about its double 2017 iPhone release strategy weighed on investors.

LONDON - Britain's main share index fell 0.3 per cent on Thursday as a weak third-quarter update from Unilever weighed, while mid- and small-cap trading was marred by profit warnings from IWG and Interserve that slashed their market value by a third.

Disappointing retail sales figures sent sterling to a one-week low before recovering, helping the internationally exposed FTSE reduce earlier losses slightly.

Fresh from a record close, the FTSE 250 ended 0.6 per cent lower as workspace group IWG plummeted 32.2 per cent after warning on profit.

It cited natural disasters and weakness in London trading as contributing factors.

Although mid-caps have hit fresh highs, investor sentiment has softened into third-quarter results, with analysts revising down their expectations for earnings.

Investors have grown cautious around UK equities since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, sending the pound plunging and sparking uncertainty around the path of divorce talks.

Britain's FTSE 100 has gained 5.3 per cent this year against a 7.7 per cent gain for the broader pan-European STOXX 600 index.

Germany's DAX declined 0.4 per cent on Thursday, while France's CAC 40 fell 0.3 per cent.

"I'm not surprised that UK companies that derive the majority of their revenues from within the UK are starting to miss earnings forecasts," said Christopher Peel, chief investment officer at Tavistock Wealth.

"The UK has become a relatively unattractive country to be invested in (bonds and equities) compared to continental Europe, Asia and the US," he said. British companies were likely to underperform global counterparts for the foreseeable future as a result, he added.

On the FTSE 100, Unilever weighed, falling 5.5 per cent after the consumer goods giant's third-quarter results missed consensus expectations.

Unilever blamed poorer weather in Europe for slower than expected sales this summer, particularly impacting ice cream sales.

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mixed on Thursday.

Data showed that China's quarterly growth slowed slightly but was in line with expectations.

Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.4 per cent to 21,448.52, while South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.4 per cent to 2,473.05.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.5 per cent to 28,574.59 and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.5 per cent to 3,364.72.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1 per cent to 5,896.10.

Stocks in Taiwan and Singapore were higher but elsewhere in Southeast Asia, they were mixed.

China's economy expanded at a 6.8 per cent annual pace during the July-September quarter, relatively stable growth but slightly below the previous quarter's 6.9 per cent, government data showed.

The latest result gives a boost to the ruling Communist Party that has been trying to steer the world's second-largest economy to slower, more sustainable growth based on consumer spending rather than exports and investment.

Customs data show Japan's trade surplus leaped nearly 38 per cent in September from a year earlier, on strong shipments of cars, car parts and machinery to China and the US.

The upbeat report boosted share prices for manufacturers like Toyota Motor Corp. and Panasonic.

However, analysts are forecasting that growth will slow in coming months.

WELLINGTON - The NZX 50 gained 9.05 points, or 0.1 per cent, to a record 8124.04.