Positive jobs data from the U.S. and Germany was not enough to keep investors bullish Thursday, as a moderate asset sell-off continued, with traders apparently squaring up their positions in anticipation of earnings season.
Risky securities and commodities fell around the world, despite data showing that new weekly U.S. unemployment claims were at the lowest point since April 2008. German employment data was also strong, with unemployment claims declining in March and taking that country's joblessness rate to a relatively healthy 7.2 percent.
But the markets seemed to shrug off the positive employment data, and they were somewhat depressed in the U.S. on news that fourth-quarter GDP growth missed economists' expectations. The economy expanded at 3 percent in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said, in its final estimate for the period, somewhat behind consensus expectations for a 3.2 percent increase.
Here's a look at how the markets fared.
Stocks. Equity markets were down around the world. Japan's Nikkei Index was off 0.67 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.32 percent. The trend continued in Europe and the United States later in the day. The wide S&P 500 index of U.S. equities was off by 0.16 percent to 1,403.29. The sell-off was shallow, but wide. Nearly 60 percent of stock issues declined on the New York Stock Exchange.
Bonds. Thirty-year U.S. bonds rallied, with their yield down four basis points to 3.27 percent. The overall Treasury yield curve remained higher after a $29 billion auction of seven-year securities, which drew a higher yield than forecasters had expected. Yield rates increased for Spanish, Italian and Portuguese debt.
Commodities. Crude oil fell after comments from the Saudi Arabian oil minister and suggestions that European countries might tap strategic oil reserves. The most widely traded contract, for May delivery, was down to $103.22 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a loss of $2.19. Gold and other precious metals rose, with the exception of platinum and palladium. Agricultural commodities were down across the board.
Currencies. The dollar was weaker Thursday, leading to considerable drops against certain major currencies like the Japanese yen, Hong Kong dollar and Brazilian real. Most currencies in Europe, however, were even weaker. The euro dropped to $1.3296. The British pound was an exception, rising considerably to $1.5951.