The lack of top-tier US data paved the way for a light trading day, although the Dow 30 index and S&P 500 index managed to post small gains. The former was up 67.18 points to 17,073.95 (+0.40%) and the latter advanced 1.77 points to 2,001.76 (+0.09%), but the Nasdaq closed 8.8 points down to 4,708.3 (-0.19%).
The S&P 500 VIX, which is considered a gauge of market uncertainty, closed 0.49 points up to 17.35 (+2.91%) to indicate a bit of risk aversion. FOMC officials Brainard and Fischer gave testimonies yesterday and they noted some green shoots in the latest inflation data. However, the labor market conditions index showed a drop to -2.4 from a downgraded -0.8 figure.
European equities end lower
In Europe, stock markets closed lower as traders probably priced in dovish remarks from ECB Governor Draghi during the upcoming rate statement The German DAX ended 45.24 points down to 9,778.93 (-0.46%), the French CAC 40 was down 14.33 points to 4,442.29 (-0.32%), and the Euro Stoxx 50 index closed 17.91 points down to 3,019.44 (-0.59%).
Medium-tier data from the euro zone was weaker than expected, as the Sentix investor confidence index slipped from 6.0 to 5.5 instead of improving to the projected 8.8 figure while German factory orders showed a 0.1% decline.
Asian markets weaker after Chinese trade balance, Japan GDP
China reported a weaker than expected trade balance, showing a surplus of 32.59 billion USD compared to the estimated 50.1 billion USD figure. Data showed that exports were down 25.4% year-over-year in February while imports tumbled 13.8%. Meanwhile in Japan, the Q4 GDP reading was upgraded from the initially reported 0.4% contraction to just 0.3%.
The China A50 index is down 181.63 points to 9,200.75 (-1.94%), the S&P ASX 200 index was down 27.21 points to 5,115.60 (-0.53%), and the Nikkei 225 slumped 42.16 points to 16,869.16 (-0.25%). Up ahead the Japanese consumer confidence index is up for release, along with the Economy Watchers sentiment index.
Commodities have been on the rise, leading some analysts to call a bottom on crude oil after prices surged on falling US oil rig counts and declining production levels. According to the latest set of estimates from the Energy Information Administration, oil output could decline by 106K barrels in April, easing fears of a supply glut. WTI crude oil is trading at $37.53/barrel while Brent crude oil is up at $40.38/barrel.