Economy

Fed tapering concerns dominate markets

LONDON (AP) — Concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut its monetary stimulus kept European and Asian markets in check Thursday, but U.S. stocks recouped previous losses.

On Wednesday, U.S. investors were spooked by the minutes to the last Fed policy meeting and that caution carried through into the Asian and European sessions on Thursday. The minutes indicated that the central bank would likely start tapering off its $85 billion worth of monthly asset purchases in "coming months" if the job market improved further. A report Thursday showing weekly U.S. jobless claims fell 21,000 to 323,000 likely reinforced that view.

"With some predicting a token taper as early as next month, any strength in next month's payrolls number is likely to bring additional caution to risky assets," said Brenda Kelly, senior market strategist at IG.

Thursday's claims figures failed to prevent a bounceback in U.S. stocks — the Dow Jones industrial average was trading 0.6 percent higher at 15,996 and the broader S&P 500 index rose 0.7 percent to 1,793.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed flat at 6,681.33 while Germany's DAX fell 0.1 percent to 9,196.08. The CAC-40 in France shed 0.3 percent to 4,253.90. Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.5 percent to 23,580.29 and China's Shanghai Composite eased 0.04 percent to 2,205.77. Seoul's Kospi was down 1.2 percent to 1,993.78 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 retreated 0.4 percent to 5,288.32.

Japan's Nikkei 225 bucked the trend to rise 1.9 percent to 15,365.60, boosted by a weaker yen, which helps the competiveness of the country's exporters. The dollar was up 0.7 percent at 100.93 yen. The euro, meanwhile, rose 0.3 percent to $1.3468 even though a closely watched survey pointed to a waning economic recovery in the 17-country eurozone.

Financial information company Markit said its purchasing managers' index — a gauge of business activity — fell in November to a three-month low of 51.5 points from 51.9 the previous month. The fall was unexpected — most economists had been predicting a modest rise to around 52.

Even though the index remained above the 50 mark that indicates expansion for the fifth month running, the decline adds to the recent evidence suggesting that the eurozone recovery is not gaining traction.

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