(Corrects to remove reference Nasdaq closed higher in paragraph
* U.S. equities fall on options-related expiration
* Gains in France lead European stocks higher
* Dollar firms versus yen, euro steady
* Oil price slips below $110 a barrel
By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, Feb 21 Global equity markets mostly
rose and the dollar traded mixed on Friday as recent data that
has underpinned hopes for sustained U.S. economic growth offset
new data showing home resales fell to an 18-month low last
Cold weather and a lack of housing stock sidelined potential
home buyers in January, the National Association of Realtors
said on Friday, in the latest report indicating severe winter
weather has dragged on economic growth.
Home sales dropped 5.1 percent to an annual rate of 4.62
million units, the lowest level since July 2012, the trade group
said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected sales to fall to
a 4.68 million pace last month.
A measure of global equity activity, MSCI's all-country
world index, rose 0.29 percent as major equity
indexes in Europe and Latin America rose.
But Wall Street retreated slightly in late trade on
options-related expirations. The S&P 500 also faced resistance
as it flirts with its record high, and fears of an economic soft
patch kept stocks in check.
"Any disappointing data has been shrugged off and attributed
to weather," said Michael James, managing director of equity
trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
"The late-day selling was somewhat induced by the futures
and options expirations on the close. It's hard to put too much
credence in the market's action in the last couple hours because
there's so much positioning that has to do with where things
close," James said.
Corporate results helped buoy sentiment.
Priceline.com Inc jumped 2.5 percent to $1,315.65,
and was one of the S&P 500's biggest gainers. The online travel
booking company reported results that beat expectations after
Wednesday's market close.
Hewlett Packard Co's results also topped
expectations, and the computer maker raised its 2014 profit
view, but shares dipped 1.3 percent to $29.79.
Of the 441 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported
earnings so far for last year's fourth quarter, 65.3 percent
have beaten analyst expectations, according to Thomson Reuters.
Since 1994, 63 percent of companies have beaten estimates.
"I would say that the market is back to a presumption that
everything is OK," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer
at Commonwealth Financial.
"The Fed's minutes highlight that they think the U.S.
economy is going well, maybe better than well, earnings have
turned out better than expected, and Europe continues to inch
along. What's not to like?" he said.
Minutes released on Wednesday from the Federal Reserve's
most recent meeting showed that policymakers generally
"anticipated that the economy would expand at a moderate pace in
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 29.93
points, or 0.19 percent, to 16,103.3. The S&P 500 lost
3.53 points, or 0.19 percent, to 1,836.25 and the Nasdaq
Composite dropped 4.135 points, or 0.1 percent, to
In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
regional shares closed up 0.32 percent to 1,343.12 points, led
by a 0.59 percent rise in France's CAC 40 index to a
A recent trend of companies in France delivering decent
profits and better outlooks, in contrast to last year when a
weak economy hit earnings and caused the CAC to underperform,
has lifted the French benchmark.
French-listed oil services group Technip and
construction firm Saint-Gobain rose 2.50 percent and
3.77 percent, respectively, as banks lifted their target prices
for the stocks after they reported results earlier in the week.
"Many are calling the French economy the sick man of Europe,
but people are buying the future. France has so much potential
to improve," Markus Huber, senior sales trader at Peregrine &
The dollar retreated against a basket of currencies, but
managed to post its first weekly gain in three weeks. The dollar
index fell 0.02 percent to 80.271. The dollar also rose
to a three-week high against the yen, edging up 0.25 percent to
The euro rose 0.14 percent to $1.3737.
Brent crude oil slipped below $110 a barrel.
Oil prices fell, slightly eroding their sixth straight week
of gains, as the colder-than-normal U.S. winter that has lifted
heating fuel demand gave way to milder temperatures, triggering
a sell-off in heating oil.
Brent crude futures for April settled down 45 cents
at $109.85 a barrel. U.S. crude futures for April delivery
fell 55 cents to settle at $102.20.
Bond investors, as often is the case, were a bit more
skeptical about the economic outlook.
"We have not been trading particularly well in the face of
soft data prior to today," said David Ader, an interest rate
strategist at CRT Capital.
"We know the data is weather impacted, and it will continue
to be weather impacted for many weeks, so I do not think they
will be able to sell off much in the wake of all that data."
U.S. government bond prices rose, with the 10-year note
up 5/32 in price to yield 2.7337 percent.
U.S. COMEX gold futures for April delivery settled up
$6.70 an ounce at $1,323.60, with trading volume about 40
percent below its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data
In Europe, Spanish and Italian bond yields fell back toward
eight-year lows in a broad-based rally in euro zone debt as
uncertainty over the bloc's growth outlook bolstered
expectations of further monetary easing by the European Central
German 10-year yields were down 36 basis
points at 1.658 percent. Bund futures rose 0.42 ticks
to settle at 143.87 euros.
(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Additional reporting by Nigel
Stephenson in London; Editing by Leslie Adler and Chris Reese)