In US economic data, the leading index fell by 0.1% as expected in December. The Markit flash composite index rose from 54.4 to 54.5 in January (forecast 54.2). And new claims for unemployment insurance fell by 13,000 to a 49-year low of 199,000 in the latest week (forecast 220,000).

US share markets were mixed yesterday. Denting sentiment were comments from US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who said that the US and China were “miles and miles” away from a trade agreement. But chipmakers and airlines rose on positive earnings results. According to Refinitiv data, of the 97 S&P 500 companies that have reported fourth-quarter results, 75.3% have topped profit estimates.

US treasuries were firmer (yields lower), as investors favoured government bonds over equities. Investors focused on negative news on US-China trade talks. But economic data was positive. Next week, US Treasury will sell a combined $113 billion in two-year, five-year and seven-year fixed-rate securities. US 2-year yields fell by 3 points to 2.56% and US 10-year yields fell by 4 points to 2.71%. 

Major currencies were generally weaker against the US dollar in US and European trade, compared with the Asia close. The Euro fell from near US$1.1385 to US$1.1290 and was near US$1.1300 in late US trade. The Aussie dollar fell from US71.15 cents to US70.83 cents and was near the lows in late US trade. And the Japanese yen held between 109.40 yen per US dollar and JPY109.80 and was near JPY109.60 in late US trade.

Global oil prices were mixed on Thursday. Reuters highlighted the political crisis in Venezuela: "Washington signalled it could impose sanctions on Venezuela's crude exports as Caracas descends further into political and economic turmoil. The threat to reduce supplies supported futures prices". Brent crude fell by US5 cents or 0.1% to US$61.09 a barrel and the US Nymex price rose by US51 cents, or 1.0%, to US$53.13 a barrel 

Bonjour, Europe

European share markets were mixed on Thursday. Investors digested weaker data with the euro area Markit composite index down from 51.1 to 50.7 in January. Banks fell on downbeat comments from European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi. Draghi said that euro zone economic growth may be weaker than forecast. But tech stocks rose in response to an upbeat forecast from chipmaker STMicro. The pan-European STOXX600 index rose by 0.2%. The UK FTSE lost 0.4% while the German Dax index lifted 0.5%. In London trade, shares of Rio Tinto rose by 0.1% and BHP rose by 0.4%.

Top of the morning, London

Base metal prices were generally higher on the London Metal Exchange. Lead rose 2.5% and tin rose 1.5%, while other metals edged higher by 0.7%. But aluminium lost 1.2% and copper fell 0.4%.

The gold futures price fell by US$4.30 an ounce or 0.3% to $1,285.90 an ounce. The spot gold price was near US$1,280 an ounce in late US trade. Iron ore rose by US80 cents or 1.1% to US$75.40 a tonne. 

G’day Australia

In Australia and the US, no major economic data is expected. Next Tuesday, the CommSec State of the States report is issued.