Markets drift ahead of crucial week

Heading into the close the FTSE is 20 points lower, with risk appetite hit by a weak China session and a quiet day in the US.

London Stock Exchange
Source: Bloomberg

Gains are proving hard to sustain as the week comes to an end, and with US markets on a half day and important events looming, most investors are struggling to find a rationale to keep buying into equities. Two days of gains, helped along by thin volumes, have given way to modest losses. A nose-dive in Chinese stocks overnight brought back unhappy memories of August, and as a result we saw heavy losses for miners once again. This sector has been in retreat for almost the whole of 2015, but fresh lows were seen today in the likes of Anglo American and BHP Billiton, as expectations of further cuts in demand and a hit to dividend payments caused more investors to abandon ship.

In the US the shortened session has kicked off with some small losses, with the focus being on a relatively muted start to the Black Friday shopping frenzy. Once the dust settles and the numbers are in, we will have a better idea as to whether the crucial end of year shopping season has begun on the right foot.

Next week sees the key events of the ECB meeting and then non-farm payrolls. European indices have maintained their healthy aspect of late, on expectations that Mario Draghi will put some more firepower behind his pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’ to save the eurozone. A symbolic interest rate cut could help as well, and it is likely that continental stocks will continue to gain in the first half of the coming week. Non-farm payrolls next Friday will also be vital, although it will take a very poor reading indeed to undo the work of last month’s numbers, which were so strong as to make a December rate move by the Fed a very real possibility. 

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