U.S. STOCKS, BONDS
Gold Firms As Euro Edges Up Ahead Of ECB Meet
The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 9.99 points, or 0.1%, to 13333.35 to post its fifth gain in six days, placing the index at its highest level since December 2007.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 3.00 points, or 0.2%, to 1436.56, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 9.78 points, or 0.3%, to 3114.31. Leading the gains were telecommunications and industrial stocks. Verizon Communications topped the list of Dow components with a 1.5% advance, while General Electric rose 1.4%.
Weighing on the downside were consumer-staples and utilities shares. In corporate news, Apple staged a late-day rally to finish up 1.4%, after unveiling its much-anticipated iPhone 5. The product, which will feature a bigger screen, an improved camera and better battery life, was largely in line with consensus estimates.
European markets finished a touch higher, after Germany's Constitutional Court cleared the way to allow the country to ratify the euro zone's permanent bailout fund. The Stoxx Europe 600 ended with a gain of 0.1%, to its highest closing level since July 8, 2011.
Germany's DAX climbed 0.5% to a seven-week high. Taking some shine off the rally, data showed that U.K. unemployment increased in the three months to July, the first rise since the three months to November 2011.
The U.K.'s FTSE 100 slipped 0.2%. In U.S. economic news, import prices rose in August but below expectations. U.S. wholesale inventories in July rose higher than expected.
Meanwhile, investors awaited the results of the Federal Reserve's rate-setting committee, which is set to issue its latest statement after its two-day meeting ends Thursday.
Expectations that new stimulus measures will be announced are running high and helped push the Dow on Tuesday to close at its highest level in nearly five years.
In other stock movers, Facebook climbed 7.7% after founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that the stock's performance had been disappointing but was upbeat about the company's outlook in the mobile sector.
Zynga, which offers many of its social-media games on Facebook, also rose 10%. Home builders also were strong. PulteGroup advanced 6% after it got an upgrade from Williams Financial Group to "buy" from "hold." Lennar gained 4.4%.
EUROPEAN STOCKS, BONDS
European bank stocks cheered a German court ruling Wednesday on the euro zone's permanent rescue fund, while shares of BAE Systems PLC surged as it confirmed merger talks with Airbus parent EADS N.V.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index ended a shade higher, rising 0.1% to 272.91, the highest closing level since July 2011. BAE Systems rallied nearly 11% in London, putting it at the top of the leader table, after the company and defense and aerospace rival EADS N.V. confirmed they were in talks toward a potential merger valued at around $42 billion.
Shares of EADS fell 5.6% in Paris. Banks helped drive gains, with National Bank of Greece SA rallying 17% and Credit Agricole SA jumping 5.8%.
The move came after the German constitutional court rejected calls to block the ratification of the European Stability Mechanism, Europe's 500 billion euro ($643.7 billion) permanent rescue fund, and the fiscal pact. As had been expected, however, the judges attached various conditions to the ESM, including a cap on Germany's contribution.
The next question in the euro-zone crisis story is whether Italy and Spain will turn to the European Union for help and ask for a bailout.
With the European Central Bank outlining plans for an unlimited bond-buying program last week and the implementation of the rescue fund in sight, measures are in place to tame the crisis, said Frank Oland, Europe analyst at Danske Bank, in a note.
Attention also turned to the U.S., where the Federal Reserve on Thursday concludes a two-day policy meeting, with hopes high that it'll announce another round of quantitative easing.
Shares of Spanish bank Banco Santander SA (SAN) rose 1.3%, while Banco Popular Espaol SA gained 1.1%. The gains helped lift Madrid's IBEX 35 index 0.8%, to 7,992.10.
The yield on Spain's 10-year government bond fell 7 basis points to 5.60%, according to electronic trading platform Tradeweb. Italy's FTSE MIB index jumped 1.2% to 16,419.79, with UniCredit SpA rising 2.5%.
Among German stocks, Commerzbank AG rallied 7.2%. The DAX 30 index added 0.5% to 7,343.53. In London, banks were among top gainers in the FTSE 100 index. Shares of Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS) gained 3.8%, Barclays PLC (BCS) picked up 1.6% and HSBC Holdings PLC (HBC) ticked 0.8% higher.
The FTSE 100 , however, slipped 0.2% to 5,782.08, as oil companies weighed. BG Group PLC lost 2.4% and BP PLC (BP) tripped 0.5%. Oil prices were lower.
Vodafone Group PLC (VOD) also added pressure and lost 1.5%, after Nomura Securities cut its rating on the wireless carrier to neutral from buy.
The French CAC 40 index gained 0.2% to 3,543.79. Alstom SA picked up 1.3%, as it secured contracts for air-quality control systems in Taiwan and Romania worth a total of 160 million. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMHF) tripped 2% in Paris as Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded its rating to neutral from buy.
ASIA-PACIFIC STOCKS, BONDS
Asian markets rose and the dollar sank against the euro on Wednesday ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting most economists expect will deliver fresh stimulus to kickstart the economy.
Comments from China's prime minister hinting at monetary easing also gave a fillip, while traders were confident of a positive verdict in Germany as judges were set to rule on whether Berlin can legally take part in the eurozone's bailout fund.
The judges gave the green light to the rescue fund, when most major markets in Asia had closed. Tokyo surged 1.73 percent, or 152.58 points, to 8,959.96 with better-than-expected July economic data helping to lift sentiment, while Seoul jumped 1.56 percent, or 30.03 points, to 1,950.03.
Sydney was 0.82 percent higher, adding 35.5 points to 4,361.3, Hong Kong jumped 1.10 percent, or 217.51 points, to 20,075.39 and Shanghai added 0.28 percent, or 6.00 points, to 2,126.55.
The U.S. Fed later began its two-day policy meeting, after which there is a wide expectation it will unveil new measures to spur growth, with most analysts tipping a third round of bond-buying, or quantitative easing (QE3).
Base metals closed mixed on the London Metal Exchange Wednesday as investors exercised caution ahead of the conclusion of a two-day policy meeting by the Federal Reserve.
At the close, LME three-month copper was up just 0.1% at $8.096 a metric ton. Nickel was down 1.1% at $16,645/ton. U.S. crude futures posted a slight drop Wednesday after government data showed a surprise increase in U.S. oil stockpiles and as tensions flared in the Middle East.
Many investors were also cautious ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee statement due Thursday. Light, sweet crude for October delivery settled 16 cents lower at $97.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange traded 46 cents higher at $115.23 a barrel.
Gold futures wavered between gains and losses before ending slightly lower Wednesday, as traders tried to anticipate the likelihood that the Federal Reserve would announce new stimulus measures the next day.
The most actively traded contract, for December delivery, eased 0.1%, or $1.20, to settle at $1,733.70 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold prices have held above $1,700 since Friday on hopes the Fed would decide to enact new quantitative easing, but prices edged lower as the meeting got under way Wednesday. Compiled from MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD.
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