BANGKOK – World stock markets fell Wednesday ahead of a U.S. vote on raising the nation’s borrowing limit.
Analysts said, however, that stock markets have room for gains if U.S. lawmakers make progress on raising the debt ceiling. The House is set to vote on a motion to increase the nation’s $16.4 trillion borrowing authority for three months.
Without congressional action, the Treasury sometime in late February or early March will not have enough money to pay for all of its obligations, creating the possibility of a first-ever default on the government’s debts.
“A vote is expected today, and if it is passed as expected it should clear the very short term obstacles for risk appetite, although battles on automatic spending cuts and the budget itself are not so long away,” said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in a market commentary.
European stock markets were mostly down in early trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell slightly to 6,179.17. Germany’s DAX rose 0.1 per cent to 7,702.29. France’s CAC-40 lost 0.1 per cent at 3,737.44.
Wall Street stocks appeared to be headed lower. Dow Jones industrial futures fell 0.1 per cent to 13,680. S&P 500 futures shed 0.2 per cent to 1,486.10.
Stocks in Japan reacted negatively for a second day to the central bank’s plans for shoring up the economy.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo tumbled 2.1 per cent to close at 10,486.99, a day after the Bank of Japan set its target inflation rate at 2 per cent and said it would undertake open-ended asset purchases starting in 2014. Some analysts said investors were disappointed that the central bank didn’t take more aggressive measures.
Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong, said the Bank of Japan’s latest efforts won’t reverse two decades of stagnant growth without addressing the country’s budget deficit and public debt, which ballooned under years of efforts to stimulate the economy.
“They are not doing anything to address the problem. They are just using the same old methods, of printing money to sustain economic growth. If you use that too often, it will lose its efficacy,” Lun said.
South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.8 per cent to 1,980.41. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.1 per cent to 23,635.10. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 bucked the trend, rising 0.2 per cent to 4,787.80.
Among individual stocks, BHP Billiton rose 1.3 per cent in Sydney after the mining giant’s half-year iron ore production results exceeded expectations. Japan’s Kobe Steel plummeted 6.5 per cent while banking giant Nomura Holdings fell 4.5 per cent.
Strong earnings reports from big U.S. companies helped push the Dow Jones industrial average to its eighth gain in nine sessions Tuesday. The gains came despite a report showing sales of previously occupied homes dipped in December from November. The news wasn’t as bad as it looked, however. Sales rose last year to 4.65 million, a 9.2 per cent increase from the previous year and the most in five years.
Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 8 cents to $96.59 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The February contract, which expired Tuesday, rose 68 cents to close at $96.24 a barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3298 from $1.3317 in New York on Tuesday. The dollar fell to 88.21 yen from 88.76 yen.