LONDON (AP) — Global markets were muted Friday despite an uptick in U.S. and Chinese manufacturing activity, as investors continued to fret that the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin cutting its stimulus as soon as January.
Two separate surveys showed that manufacturing grew in the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, in October. For the U.S., the rise came during a tough period that was marred by a partial government shutdown and concerns of government default. In China, the figure suggests the country's rebound in growth will continue — its economy expanded 7.8 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter's two-decade low.
The reports remain overshadowed, however, by worries about less expansive U.S. monetary stimulus. The Federal Reserve's announcement this week that it would maintain its monthly bond purchases at $85 billion was widely expected. But the central bank no longer expressed concern, as it did in September, that higher mortgage rates could hold back hiring and economic growth. And its statement made no reference to the 16-day government shutdown, which economists say slowed growth this quarter. Some analysts said that suggests reduction of the stimulus could begin early next year.
The U.S. central bank's cheap money policy is aimed at supporting economic recovery and has also underpinned stock markets worldwide for several years. Speculation about the timing of the reduction, known as tapering, will likely continue to roil markets in coming months, said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia.
"Despite it mattering very little whether tapering occurs in January or March, we are still likely to see a negative equity response." Germany's DAX shed 0.3 percent to close at 9,007.83 and France's CAC-40 dropped 0.6 percent to 4,273.19. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 6,734.74.
On Wall Street, markets lacked momentum after a strong week in which the S&P 500 hit a record high thanks in part to upbeat corporate earnings reports. The S&P was flat at 1,756.33, while the Dow was up 0.2 percent at 15,573.09.
Earlier, Japan's Nikkei 225, the Asian heavyweight, fell 0.9 percent to close at 14,201.57, weighed down by the dollar dipping below 98 yen and an 11 percent plunge in Sony Corp. shares after it Thursday reported a 19.3 billion yen ($196 million) quarterly loss.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng crept up 0.2 percent while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent. Markets in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia fell. Seoul's Kospi added 0.5 percent. The exception to a lackluster Friday came in India's stock market, where a modest gain was enough to push the Sensex index to a record high shortly after the opening bell — a comeback from a few months ago when the bourse plunged and the Indian rupee fell to a lifetime low amid a bout of worry about withdrawal of the Fed's stimulus.
Much of that foreign money has returned now that the rupee has stabilized at a lower level, making Indian stocks a bargain. The Sensex closed 0.2 percent higher. Benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was down $1.19 at $95.19 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract had dropped 39 cents to close $96.38 on Thursday.
In currency trading, the euro was down 0.7 percent at $1.3491, while the dollar traded as low as 97.76 yen before climbing to 98.78 yen.