False alarms in Syria and yet more ‘good news is bad news’ have conspired to hold the FTSE 100 back today. A degree of profit-taking in London and Europe was to be expected after the strong moves made yesterday in the absence of US traders. US markets have started their shortened week on the front foot as well, even if investors are none too impressed by Microsoft’s decision to acquire part of Nokia.
In London stocks have struggled to make further upward progress, despite a sterling effort from the mining sector. Tenuous gains were wiped out by reports from Russia that missiles had been fired in the eastern Mediterranean. Headline-reading algorithms took that as a sign that significant events had taken place in Syria, and indices in Europe promptly slumped into the red. However, it emerged that the event was already some hours old, allowing investors to regain some of their composure. This illustrates clearly that markets are still jittery about the prospect of military action. Vodafone shares lost yet more ground as the post-Verizon euphoria faded, although they remain above Thursday’s opening level of 207p.
Wall Street is playing catch-up with Europe today, but gains have been held back by yet more good news on the economic front that has duly boosted the expectations of US Federal Reserve tapering. Microsoft shares have taken a battering on news that it is rescuing part of Nokia from its embattled parent. Questions will be asked about whether Microsoft really has the desire to compete in the smartphone market with Apple and Samsung, or whether this is just another flash-in-the-pan moment from a company that has struggled to establish a new raison d’être over the past 20 years.
Oil prices lurched higher in the wake of the missile launches in the Mediterranean. It turns out that it was an Israeli test; presumably they thought trying to keep it quiet would be the best course of action. Evidently this was not the case, and we can only hope no one else is planning any exercises in the near future. Silver continues to confound the shorters, gaining another 1% today.
The Australian central bank did as expected and kept rates on hold, allowing AUD/USD to make a second successive day of gains, consolidating above the 90 cent level. It seems the run of rate cuts has come to an end, with only a significant deterioration likely to cause another round of easing. Now we wait to see if the 92 cent level proves to be a barrier, as it was throughout August.