Cautious mood dominant in markets ahead of US data

Associated Press
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Women walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Asian stock markets were mostly lower Wednesday after a survey showed Chinese manufacturing activity fell to its lowest point in nearly a year. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.6 percent to 14,692.83. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

LONDON (AP) — Markets drifted lower Thursday as Wall Street failed to make new all-time highs, giving some investors pause for thought as the traditional summer lull begins in earnest.

Not even an upbeat German business survey or news that the British economy has picked up steam could alter the prevailing selling mood, which has seen many European and Asian indexes post 1 percent declines.

"It might be unfair to blame the current negativity on Wall Street, but the longer U.S. markets dithered ahead of new highs, the greater the likelihood that the bears would take the chance to push major indices lower," said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 1 percent at 6,552 even after official figures showed the U.K. economy grew by a quarterly 0.6 percent in the second quarter of the year, its fastest rate in nearly two years. Germany's DAX was also down 1.3 percent to 8,273 despite the closely watched Ifo index pointing to solid growth in Europe's economy. The CAC-40 in France was 1 percent lower at 3,924.

Wall Street was poised for a retreat at the open with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.5 percent.

How U.S. markets actually open could well hinge on the economic data due for release an hour before the bell. Specifically, weekly jobless claims numbers and durable goods orders for June will be assessed both in terms of what they say about the U.S. economy as well as how they impact on expectations about a change in the Federal Reserve's super-easy and super-cheap monetary policy.

"As it stands for now the bulls do seem to be running out of steam and that durable goods number could well prove instrumental in where Wall Street goes next," said Andy McLevey, head of dealing at Interactive Investor.

On Wednesday, U.S. markets failed to breach new all-time highs amid mixed earnings updates. The next batch due for release includes Xerox, Starbucks and Amazon.

Earlier in Asia, China's weak manufacturing figures from Wednesday continued to weigh on sentiment. China's slowdown is in large part self-induced. Its leaders are trying to shift the basis of China's growth away from reliance on exports and industrial investment in favor of consumption which they hope will be more self-sustaining. That means large stimulus is unlikely.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average shed 1.1 percent to 14,562.93 with camera-maker Canon plunging 5.4 percent after it lowered its full-year profit and sales outlook Wednesday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.3 percent to 21,900.96 and China's Shanghai Composite dropped 0.6 percent to 2,021.17.

Currency markets were fairly lackluster with the euro 0.1 percent lower at $1.3175 and the dollar 0.4 percent down at 99.88 yen.

Oil prices tracked equities lower, with the benchmark New York rate 77 cents lower at $104.62 a barrel.