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Stocks Decline as China Seen Refraining From Easing; Aussie, Gold Climb

Published: March 1, 2012 | 9:00 am
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Stocks (MXWD) around the world fell the most in almost three weeks, while gold rebounded as better-than- expected data on Chinese manufacturing boosted speculation the nation will refrain from further steps to ease monetary policy.
The MSCI All-Country World Index (MXWD) slid 0.5 percent as of 8:10 a.m. in London, poised for the biggest drop since Feb. 10. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.2 percent and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures retreated 0.3 percent. The yen strengthened against 13 of its 16 major counterparts. Ten-year Treasury yields climbed two basis points to 1.99 percent. Gold jumped 1.4 percent after falling the most since 2008 yesterday.

China’s manufacturing improved for a third month in February and data later today may show U.S. factory activity climbed to an eight-month high. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said yesterday that while keeping monetary stimulus is warranted, rising gasoline prices are likely to push up inflation temporarily, and the drop in unemployment has been more rapid than expected.
“As the U.S. economy continues to recover and with China’s manufacturing still expanding, there’s less likelihood of further monetary easing,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core-Pacific Yamaichi International Ltd.
French 10-year yields were at 2.88 percent before the nation sells as much as 8 billion euros ($10.7 billion) of securities maturing in 2017, 2019, 2022 and 2026. The yield on benchmark German 10-year bunds rose less than one basis point to 1.83 percent. Spain plans to hold note auctions.

Monthly Performance

Commodities, led by oil, beat stocks (MXWD), bonds and the dollar for the first time since July last month as the European Union prepared to embargo Iranian crude, the U.S. economy improved and China took steps to shore up growth. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Total Return Index of 24 raw materials rose 6.5 percent in February, extending the previous month’s 2.2 percent gain, as Brent crude advanced 11 percent.
China, the largest foreign U.S. creditor, reduced its holdings of U.S. government securities last year for the first time since the Treasury Department began compiling the data in 2001. The country held $1.15 trillion Treasuries as of Dec. 31, down from $1.16 trillion at the end of 2010, according to data released yesterday.
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) slipped 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.4 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index retreated 1 percent. Asian stocks entered a bull market yesterday after the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 20 percent from a two-year low in October. The equity benchmark has advanced for the past 10 weeks, the longest run since its inception in 1988.

Mining Stocks

Raw-material producers in the MSCI Asia gauge slid 1.8 percent for the biggest drop among 10 industries. Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM), Australia’s largest gold mining company, fell 2.8 percent. BHP Billiton Ltd. slipped 1.5 percent. Silver, gold and lead fell more than 4 percent yesterday, leading declines in commodities.
Country Garden Holdings Co., the developer controlled by China’s second-richest woman, tumbled 8.8 percent after saying it’s selling 677 million shares in Hong Kong at a discount. Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS), the nation’s largest long-haul carrier, dropped 3.5 percent after its chairman said the company was “in crisis” following a fourth straight quarterly loss.
The dollar rose for a second day against the euro, adding 0.1 percent. The Institute for Supply Management’s factory index probably rose to 54.5 in February from 54.1, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Readings above 50 signal growth. A separate report today may show U.S. consumer purchases increased 0.4 percent in January.

Manufacturing Expands

“Manufacturing is picking up across the globe,” said Justin Harper, head of research in Singapore at IG Markets. “Risk-on sentiment is definitely on the table at the moment,” weighing on haven currencies such as the dollar, he said.
Gold rose after exchange-traded product holdings advanced to a record. Spot silver, this year’s best-performing precious metal, rose 0.4 percent to $34.8075 an ounce.
Oil for April delivery retreated 0.4 percent to $106.61 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude in New York dropped as much as 1.6 percent yesterday after a report from the U.S. Energy Department showed stockpiles increased almost four times more than forecast.
The MSCI Emerging Markets Index (MXEF) fell from a seven-month high, declining 0.9 percent. The BSE India Sensitive Index sank 1.4 percent and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index lost 1.9 percent.

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