FROM MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD:
U.S. STOCK MARKETS
Stocks sank into the red in late trading Wednesday, as worries about Europe and weak U.S. data eclipsed earlier optimism about financial stocks' outlooks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.6%, or 77.42 points, to 12496.38. Midday, it briefly edged above 12598.
Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled 69 cents, or 0.7%, higher at $99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its highest finish since May 4.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 9.3 points, or 0.7%, to 1314.88, and the Nasdaq Composite fell 24.46 points, or 0.9%, to 2818.61.
Concerns about the strength of Europe's economy moved to the forefront in late afternoon trading, as the Dow Industrial Average fell more than 100 points to its intraday lows.
Major indexes recouped some of their losses before the close, but stocks remained in negative territory on jitters about demand for Italian bonds in an upcoming auction and reports of more Greek bank withdrawals ahead of the country's elections this Sunday.
U.S. retail sales slipped for the second consecutive month in May, the first consecutive-month decline in nearly two years. While the measure fell by less than expected in May, April retail sales were revised down into negative territory.
Stocks saw gains in the first half of the day, as J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Executive James Dimon testified in front of a Senate panel. The questioning was less contentious than expected, which stoked hopes that banks wouldn't see extensive regulatory fallout from J.P. Morgan's trading loss of more than $2 billion.
In corporate news, Dell led companies in the S&P 500, rising 2.6% after the computer maker said it plans to start paying a quarterly cash dividend of 8 cents a share. Johnson & Johnson gained 2.2%. The blue chip health-care company said it received regulatory clearance to close its $19.7 billion bid for medical-device maker Synthes.
EUROPEAN STOCK MARKETS
Losses in shares of big manufacturing companies and miners drove Europe's stock markets lower Wednesday amid weak euro-zone and U.S. data, though Spanish stocks bucked the trend after retailer Inditex SA zipped higher on upbeat results.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index closed 0.4% lower at 242.56. Markets dipped deeper into negative territory in afternoon action after U.S. retail sales fell for a second month in May, marking the first back-to-back drop in two years.
SKF AB dropped the most in the pan-European index, off 7.3%, after the maker of rolling bearings cut its second-quarter forecast due to weaker market conditions in Western Europe and Asia.
The announcement stirred concerns that profit warnings from other industrials such as Swedish machinery firm Sandvik AB and Atlas Copco AB would follow.
Shares of Sandvik dropped 5.3%, while those of Atlas Copco fell 3.4%. Major industrial companies and miners were also weighed by news of a 0.8% drop in euro-zone industrial production in April from March.
In Germany, Siemens AG gave up 1.4%, weighing on the DAX 30 index which slipped 0.1% to 6,152.49. Car makers also weighed on sentiment, with Daimler AG down 2.1%, Volkswagen AG off 1.8% and BMW AG 1.3% lower.
In France, power and transport firm Alstom SA gave up 5%, while Schneider Electric SA slid 5.1%. The French CAC 40 index fell 0.6% to 3,030.04.
Outside the main index, shares of Establissements Maurel & Prom SA were the top Stoxx 600 gainer, up 17.7% on reports that Royal Dutch Shell PLC is interested in buying the French oil group.
Miners weighed on the index: Xstrata PLC fell 5.2% and Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. lost 1.3%. Vedanta Resources PLC fell 2.6% in London. Spanish retailer Inditex SA rose 11.6% after first-quarter results beat forecasters' expectations. The gain helped lift the IBEX 35 index 1.4% to 6,615.30. The Athens General Index rose 2.1% to 499.56.
ASIA-PACIFIC STOCK MARKETS
Asian stock markets rose Wednesday, as investors weighed the chances of global policy action with worries about developments in Europe in the run-up to this weekend's election in Greece.
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose 0.6%, the Shanghai Composite Index added 1.3%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 0.8%. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3%.
Sources of hope for such possible action include the U.S. Federal Reserve. On Tuesday, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said the central bank would be in favor of moves to spur more rapid jobs growth.
Optimism that policy makers would step in to limit the fallout from Europe to the global economy helped gold and oil futures gain Tuesday, along with U.S. stocks, and gave a boost to commodity-related shares in Asia.
Gainers in the sector included Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., up 2.5%, and Toho Zinc Co., up 2.1% in Japan. Oil giant Cnooc Ltd. fell 1% in Hong Kong, as benchmark U.S. crude-oil futures pared gains in Asian morning trade.
Huaneng Power International gained 5.7% and New China Life Insurance jumped 10%. Japanese machinery stocks got a mild boost from April data showing core machinery orders rose a stronger-than-expected 5.7%. Fanuc Corp. rose 0.4% and Denso Corp. was up 0.9%. Canon Inc. fell 1.1% after Credit Suisse cut its price target for the shares.
Among decliners, Hong-Kong-listed apparel firm Esprit plummeted 21.8% after the firm announced Chief Executive Officer Ronald van der Vis would resign for personal reasons, effective July 1.
Base metals closed mixed on the London Metal Exchange Wednesday as concerns over the global economy continued to keep a lid on prices. At the close, LME three-month copper was down 0.1% at $7,390 a metric ton. Tin performed the worst of the complex, closing 1.2% lower at $19,445/ton.
Crude oil futures prices settled at a fresh eight-month low Wednesday ahead of a meeting to discuss oil output among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The group, consisting of the world's biggest oil exporters, is expected to keep production unchanged at historically high levels when it meets in Vienna Thursday.
Light, sweet crude for July delivery settled 70 cents, or 0.8%, lower at $82.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest settlement since Oct. 6.
Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange settled 1 cent lower at $97.13, a fresh 17-month low. Gold rose slightly on the weaker dollar, though euro-zone worries reined in its rise as investors turned to Treasurys for security. The most actively traded contract, for August delivery, gained 0.4%, or $5.60, to settle at $1,619.40 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
To contact the editor, e-mail: