Markets steady after earlier Japanese weakness

LONDON (AP) — Markets steadied Monday at the start of action-packed week that could set the tone for the rest of the summer, brushing off earlier weakness prompted by a big retreat in Japanese shares in the wake of renewed yen buying.

Investors will have the latest policy statements from the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank to digest as well as a raft of economic and corporate news from around the world. The data week started slowly Monday but will pick up steam through the week culminating in Friday’s U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for July.

Though the Fed is not expected to change its monetary policy on Wednesday, this week’s data could go a long way to determine when the central bank begins to reduce its monetary stimulus. Many in the markets think that the so-called tapering of the stimulus could start in September. The Fed is currently buying $85 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds a month in a move that has kept long-term rates near record lows and supported economic recovery.

“This week will clearly set the tone for market conditions for the remainder of the summer,” said Michael Woolfolk, an analyst at Bank of New York Mellon.

Given that backdrop, investors looked past the early weakness in Asia and stocks in Europe and the U.S. traded in relatively narrow ranges.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed Monday barely changed on last Friday, up 0.08 percent at 6,560 while Germany’s DAX rose 0.17 percent to 8,259. The CAC-40 in France ended the day flat at 3,968.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.3 percent at 15,506 while the broader S&P 500 index fell 0.4 percent to 1,684.

Earlier, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 sank 3.3 percent to 13,661.13, its first close below 14,000 since July 1, as the yen continued to reverse some its recent fall. The dollar was 0.45 percent lower at 97.87 yen. Earlier it had fallen to a month-low of 97.61 yen to the likely chagrin of Japan’s exporters.

A lower yen makes Japanese exports more competitive. The currency’s broad weakness this year has been one of the reasons why the Nikkei has been one of the strongest performers. Japanese vehicle makers were among the hardest hit on Monday, with Mitsubishi Motors Corp. down 9.9 percent and Isuzu Motors Ltd. 8 percent lower.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.6 percent to 1,899.89 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.5 percent to 21,850.15. On the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index shed 1.7 percent to 1,976.31 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 1.9 percent to 941.33.

Oil prices were fairly subdued, with the benchmark New York rate up 5 cents at $104.73 a barrel.

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