Euro falls on weak German business morale, stocks slip

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The euro fell against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday after data showed a surprise deterioration in German business morale, raising fears of slowing global growth and weighing on a gauge of world equity markets, including Wall Street.

FILE PHOTO: The German Central Bank (Bundesbank) presents the new 50 euro banknote at its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The decline in the Munich-based Ifo economic institute’s business climate index bucked expectations for a small improvement and sent U.S. Treasury yields lower as investors piled into safe-haven bonds.

Reports of a sharp slowdown in Australian inflation also lifted bond prices. Premier Li Keqiang in China fed concerns about global growth, saying authorities should not underestimate the difficulties in the Chinese economy.

Signals that China has put broader stimulus on hold curbed demand for European equities and overshadowed strong earnings from Credit Suisse and SAP, which led Germany’s DAX index to close up 0.63% at a six month high.

The 12.6% surge in the German software firm’s shares helped technology post its best days since August 2015, but all other major country indexes in Europe closed lower.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed down 0.09%, while MSCI’s gauge of stock performance in 47 countries fell 0.42%.

Wall Street shrugged off some earnings misses but drifted lower at the end of the session. Boeing Co rose 0.39% after the planemaker reported first-quarter free cash flow that was ahead of many analysts’ estimates, helped by improved performance from its 787 Dreamliner program.

U.S. corporate earnings have been much better than expected and are driving the benchmark S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes to new highs, though the pace of gains should slow, said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

“You’re seeing a transition, at least for today,” Arone said. “There are some concerns that outside the U.S. global growth continues to be disappointing and that’s weighing on shares.”

Defensive sectors of the market, REITs, utilities and staples, rose. Cyclical-oriented shares struggled with the renewed growth concerns.

The Nasdaq fell after setting all-time intra-day high. Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 set new closing record highs on Tuesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 59.34 points, or 0.22%, to 26,597.05. The S&P 500 lost 6.43 points, or 0.22%, to 2,927.25 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 18.81 points, or 0.23%, to 8,102.02.

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.43% at 98.059, its highest since June 2017.

The euro was down 0.61% at $1.1157, while the Japanese yen strengthened 0.3% versus the greenback at 112.19 per dollar.

In a sign of bullish sentiment, the Treasury yield curve steepened further, hitting its widest level since November 2018. Benchmark 10-year notes rose 14/32 in price to push their yield down to 2.5199%.

Oil prices steadied near six-month highs after data showed U.S. stockpiles rose to their highest levels since October 2017, countering fears of tight supply from OPEC output cuts and U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and Iran.

U.S. crude inventories rose 5.5 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said, far more than the 1.3 million barrel increase analysts had forecast.

Brent crude futures settled up 6 cents at $74.57 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 41 cents to settle at $65.89 a barrel.

U.S. gold futures settled 0.5 percent higher at $1,279.40 an ounce.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Cynthia Osterman and David Gregorio