By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of global equity markets traded little changed on Thursday as European shares rose ahead of new voting that backed a Brexit delay and bolstered the dollar, while Wall Street meandered on uncertainty over U.S.-China trade talks.
The dollar gained for the first time in a week as the pound fell even after Parliament voted overwhelmingly to seek a delay to the March 29 deadline for Britain to exit the European Union.
Lawmakers also voted against a second referendum on EU membership as the delay vote set the stage for Prime Minister Theresa May to renew efforts to get a divorce deal approved by Parliament next week.
Sterling fell 0.86 percent to $1.3222 after gaining almost 2 percent late on Wednesday on a vote to defeat a “no-deal” Brexit.
Uncertainty about Brexit favored waiting for some clarity in the market as there was a lack of conviction, said Charles Tomes, senior investment analyst at Manulife Asset Management.
“Volatility is low and people don’t want to put on sizeable positions either way,” Tomes said.
European shares rose to a five-month high as sentiment improved from cautious to upbeat after the open. But a Bloomberg report of a likely delay in U.S.-China trade talks, coupled with fresh data showing weak U.S. home sales, hurt U.S. stocks.
Data showing China’s industrial output grew 5.3 percent in January and February, the slowest pace of expansion in 17 years, is also a concern, said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco.
While fiscal and monetary stimulus will improve China’s economy down the road, fear of U.S.-China trade wars and economic slowdown are driving market sentiment for the moment.
“In general, what we have is a picture that doesn’t look particularly positive today,” Hooper said.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.03 percent while the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares closed up 0.77 percent.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 7.05 points, or 0.03 percent, to 25,709.94. The S&P 500 lost 2.44 points, or 0.09 percent, to 2,808.48 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 12.50 points, or 0.16 percent, to 7,630.91.
The dollar index, a gauge of its strength against six other major trading currencies, rose 0.24 percent to 96.783 after brushing a nine-day trough overnight of 96.385.
The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.1302, and the Japanese yen weakened 0.46 percent versus the greenback at 111.70 per dollar.
U.S. Treasury prices dropped in quiet trading.
The benchmark 10-year note fell 5/32 in price to push its yield to 2.6285 percent.
Oil prices were mixed, lifted by solid demand and output cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, though gains were capped by an ongoing surge in U.S. supply while analysts warned of risks to the global economy.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures rose 35 cents to settle at $58.61 per barrel, but Brent crude futures settled down 32 cents at $67.23 per barrel.
Gold slipped below $1,300 for a second time this month as the dollar gained and British lawmakers approved a Brexit delay.
U.S. gold futures settled 1.1 percent lower to $1,295.1 an ounce.
(Reporting by Herbert Lash; additional reporting by Kate Duguid in New York; editing by Dan Grebler and Susan Thomas)