Stocks closed slightly higher Friday after fluctuating most of the session as some better-than-expected quarterly earnings helped offset anxiety over China's move overnight to curb inflation. Ireland made progress on a possible aid package with the European Union, but like the equity markets, the dollar, gold and oil were little changed by day's end.
The Dow tumbled Tuesday 178 points, or 1.6%, to close at 11,024 as part of a global sell-off in stocks fueled by further speculation that China will hike interest rates to fight inflation and renewed worries over the wobbly finances of Ireland, Portugal and Greece.
Ireland headed into a confrontation Tuesday with leaders of the European Union and other struggling members of the eurozone on whether to seek a financial bailout as jitters continued to disrupt the continent's financial markets.
The nation%u2019s manufacturing recovery accelerated in October as factory output jumped 0.5%, the Federal Reserve said. Overall industrial output was flat in the month, but the typical autumn plunge in utilities output skewed the top-line stat lower.
For a host of reasons, other countries would love to free their economies from the stranglehold of the U.S. dollar's influence, especially now, when the Fed's stimulus actions are pushing the dollar lower, and everything else higher. Global finance expert Peter Cohan has a simple answer: The Mondo.
As the G-20 meets in South Korea, many world leaders have stepped up their complaints about the Fed's $600 billion quantitative easing program, as well as the rapid flow of capital into emerging markets. Some countries are installing capital controls in response, but those won't be enough, says global finance expert Peter Cohan.
Aided by a decline in imports and a two-year high in exports, the U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly plunged 5.3% in September to $44 billion. Strong commercial airline orders helped boost the export total.
The U.S. finds itself on the wrong side of the currency manipulation argument this week, as many G20 countries criticize the Fed's $600 billion bond buying plan, which could further devalue the dollar. World leaders say the move breaks the vow of unity made during the last G-20 summit.
China and Germany, the world%u2019s second-largest and fourth-largest economies respectively, expressed concern about Federal Reserve plans to pump $600 billion into the U.S. economy. The Fed announced plans to buy $600 billion of assets earlier this week. The Fed hopes that the move, known as quantitative easing, will help boost the U.S. economy and lower unemployment.
Intended or not, the Fed's quantitative easing policies are destroying the dollar's value. And that in turn is pushing prices of commodities that Americans need -- such as instance food, cotton and oil -- ever higher. And that hurts companies as well as consumers.
In Asia on Tuesday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.1%, China's Shanghai Composite inched down 0.3%. and in Japan, the Nikkei 225 crept up 0.1%. Investors are closely monitoring the U.S. midterm elections, with many predicting that if the Democrats lose their majorities in both the House and the Senate, the dollar will continue to slide.
Market watchers lately have loudly proclaimed the end of the dollar, which has left investors looking to stay ahead with a choice of betting on stocks, which have 17% fallen in the last decade, or staying "safe" in very low-yield money market funds. But there is an alternative: Commodities.
The U.S. will not weaken the dollar in order to boost its exports, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner promised. "It is not going to happen in this country," Geithner told Silicon Valley business leaders of devaluing the dollar, according to Reuters.
Some OPEC members want oil prices to rise to $100 a barrel to offset the decline in the dollar. The value of the dollar, which has slipped 13% since June against major world currencies, means that the "real price" of oil is about $20 less than current levels, Venezuela%u2019s Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said after Thursday%u2019s OPEC meeting in Vienna.
The euro has posted its biggest quarterly gain in eight years, but billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett is worried about Europe's common currency. Despite the E.U.'s trillion-dollar bailout fund, he's not sure the Continent will be able to avert a sovereign debt meltdown.
The U.S. dollar traded near an eight-month low against the euro on bets that the Federal Reserve will signal it is willing to buy more government debt in order to stimulate the economy. The U.S. dollar traded at $1.3940 per euro as of 11:08 a.m. in London, Bloomberg News reported. It fell to $1.4012 earlier today and reached $1.4029 on Oct. 7, the weakest since Jan. 28.
Investors take note: Despite the calls for order, national policymakers are dealing with an increasingly haphazard scenario loaded with counterproductive results and unintended consequences. The result could be a slide toward protectionism.
Countries from Japan to Brazil and Mexico to Malaysia are trying to intervene in currency markets to alter the value of their currency. The widespread dependence on exports is the prime reason for these moves, which can be tricky and even backfire.
Gold prices jumped to record highs Wednesday after the Federal Reserve signaled it is willing to boost its stimulus measures. The price of bullion reached a new record of $1,294.95 an ounce, before slipping to $1,293.10 an ounce, Reuters reported.
Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, won a party leadership vote on Tuesday to secure his position as the country's premier, defeating challenger Ichiro Ozawa and fueling further gains in the yen.
The Chinese yuan hit a post-revaluation high against the dollar Monday after the People's Bank of China set the yuan's reference rate for trading at its highest level since the central bank began publishing the daily fix in 1994. The yuan can rise or fall 0.5% each day from the reference point.
"We see the economy improving, but the strength of the recovery in individual markets has been uneven," said John Fleming, head of Ford's global manufacturing in London on Thursday. He said demand could rise by as much as 10%.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that China should let its yuan currency appreciate faster to demonstrate that the country is willing to follow through on promises to its trading partners. "Frankly they haven%u2019t let the currency move very much so far," Geithner told Bloomberg News. "They know they%u2019re just at the beginning of that process and I think we%u2019d like to see them move more quickly."
The yen strengthened to a 15-year high against the U.S. dollar as investors bet against the country%u2019s policy to limit the gains in the currency. The yen strengthened to 83.34 per dollar, compared to 83.80 late Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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The yen eased down a bit on Wednesday from the 15-year and nine-year highs it set Tuesday against the dollar and the euro respectively, with the market watching for possible intervention from Tokyo to curb the currency's rise, which threatens Japan's fragile economic recovery.
The price of oil rose to a three month high on Tuesday due to the weak U.S. dollar, and bullish sentiment about growth in 2011.
Last month, China said it would loosen the tight link between its currency, the yuan, and the U.S. dollar. It was a move welcomed by economists and world leaders who felt China was engaging in unfair currency manipulation. But on Wednesday, the government in Beijing backpedaled a bit.
The major averages rallied sharply Wednesday with the blue-chip Dow closing up 274 points, fueled by a rosier earnings forecast from money manager State Street Corp. and anticipation of strong monthly retail sales reports on Thursday.