U.S. STOCK MARKETS
Shares of telecom stocks helped nudge stocks higher after readings on private-sector hiring and service-sector activity bested expectations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 12.25 points, or 0.1%, at 13494.61, reversing losses earlier in the session.
Gold futures edged higher in muted activity as traders closed out bets on lower prices ahead of a European Central Bank policy meeting.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 5.24 points, or 0.4%, to 1450.99, the third gain in a row for the benchmark. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 15.19 points, or 0.5%, to 3135.23.
Telecommunications and consumer-discretionary shares paced gains, while energy-sector stocks lagged behind as oil prices staged their biggest one-day drop of the year. AT&T and Verizon Communications each notched firm gains, offsetting a drop in MetroPCS Communications shares after the company's planned merger with Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA unit failed to impress investors.
Shares fell 9.8% after jumping 18% on report's of the deal Tuesday. Hewlett-Packard plunged 13% to close at a nearly 10-year low after the tech company gave a forecast for the new fiscal year that fell short of analysts' expectations. Netflix, up 11%, led the S&P 500 higher as Citigroup analysts reiterated their recommendation to buy the shares.
A pair of upbeat economic points helped bolster stocks. Private-sector job growth slowed less than economists expected in September, according to payroll processor Automatic Data Processing Inc. and consultancy Macroeconomic Advisers.
The result comes ahead of the Labor Department's closely watched nonfarm payrolls report Friday, which economists expect will show bigger job gains for September than the prior month. The Institute of Supply Management's nonmanufacturing purchasing manager's index for September, a measure of service-sector activity in the U.S., unexpectedly rose.
EUROPEAN STOCKS, BONDS
European stocks ended a bumpy ride on a downbeat note Wednesday, unable to shake off uncertainty about the timing of a potential Spanish bailout despite a round of solid U.S. economic data.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index closed 0.1% lower at 271.37 but seesawed between small gains and losses during the session. Among notable movers, FirstGroup PLC plunged 21% after the U.K. Department of Transport canceled the competition for the InterCity West Coast franchise, for which FirstGroup had submitted a bid.
Fortum Oyj fell 1.8% after HSBC cut the Finnish utility firm to underweight from overweight. Elsewhere, worries that a bailout for Spain will happen later rather than sooner dented sentiment. Spain's IBEX 35 index dropped 0.5% to 7,826.70, with BBVA SA off 1.3%.
The broader European markets traded in tight ranges in afternoon action after upbeat U.S. data gave investors hope that the economy is recovering.
Data out of the euro zone, however, painted a bleak picture of the economy there, with the fall in euro-zone business activity steepening in September. In the U.K., Xstrata PLC rose 0.2% and Glencore International PLC gained 0.3%, as the European Commission said it would decide whether to clear the proposed merger between the two companies by Nov. 8.
Tesco PLC fell 2.6%, after it posted a drop in first-half profit. The FTSE 100 index rose 0.3% to 5,825.81. Index heavyweight HSBC Holdings PLC added 1.2%. In France, oil group Total SA lost 0.8%, tracking oil prices lower. Alstom SA fell 0.3%. The CAC 40 index was 0.2% lower at 3,406.02. Among German stocks, Deutsche Bank rose 2.3%. The DAX 30 index added 0.2% to 7,322.08.
ASIA-PACIFIC STOCK MARKETS
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.5% to 8,746.87 and Taiwan's Taiex declined 0.4% to 7,684.63. After a strong start as investors returned from a long weekend, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index narrowed most of those gains, finishing 0.2% higher at 20,888.28.
Stock markets in China and South Korea were closed for holidays. Holidays in China and hesitation ahead of Friday's key U.S. jobs report kept market activity restrained, he said, referring to the week-long holiday in mainland China and the upcoming U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for September.
Economic indicators in Asia also failed to encourage investors. Data released Wednesday showed China's non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 53.7 in September from 56.3 in August, and that Chinese consumer sentiment weakened in September for a third month.
Notable decliners in Hong Kong included high-end jewelry store operators, with Luk Fook Holdings International Ltd. tumbling 6% and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd. falling 3.1%. Dongfeng Motor Group Co. fell 4.5%, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. lost 3.3%.
In Japan, shares of Honda fell 1.1%, losing early gains posted in the wake of a 31% increase in U.S. sales. Toyota, which reported a 42% increase in monthly U.S. sales, ended up 0.4%, after rising about 1.9% earlier in the day.
Last year's sales for both firms were hurt by vehicle shortages resulting from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But Nissan, which wasn't as hurt by the 2011 disaster, reported that its U.S. sales declined 1.1% from the year-earlier period.
Its shares ended 2.1% lower. Japanese drug company Daiichi Sankyo Co. fell 5.4% after it and U.S. partner ArQule Inc. said they would discontinue a late-stage study for a drug to treat lung cancer. On the upside, strength in some financials helped support the Hong Kong market, with AIA Group Ltd. up 2.3%, China Merchants Bank Co. rising 1.1% and China Citic Bank Corp. adding 1.9%.
Base metals closed mostly a touch lower on the London Metal Exchange Wednesday, with scope for further declines seen ahead. While nickel saw a strong session and a healthy turnover according to Standard Bank, LME three-month copper was down 0.4% on the day at $8,290 a metric ton at the close of open-outcry trading.
Selling during Wednesday's session was originally triggered by an overnight release from China, which showed service activity fell to 53.7 in September from 56.3 in August.
Crude-oil futures tumbled 4.1% Wednesday, as data out of China showed slowing economic growth and added a new worry to investors' concerns about global fuel demand.
Light, sweet crude for November delivery settled $3.75 lower at $88.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a two-month low and the largest one-day percentage decline since Dec. 14.
Europe's benchmark Brent crude settled $3.40, or 3.1%, lower at $108.17 a barrel. Gold futures edged higher in muted activity as traders closed out bets on lower prices ahead of a European Central Bank policy meeting.
The most actively traded contract, for December delivery, settled up $4.20, or 0.2%, at $1,779.80 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. COMPILED FROM MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD.
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