Wall St hits new high on stimulus bets

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose to a new record overnight on expectations the Federal Reserve will maintain its massive stimulus programme amid signs the world's biggest economy is stumbling.

The S&P 500 gained 0.4 per cent to 1769.21 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6 per cent to 15668.05. In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.4 per cent.

As the Federal Open Market Committee began its two-day meeting, more economic data showed the US economy's pace is far from robust. Retail sales fell 0.1 per cent in September, driven by a drop in car sales, Commerce Department figures showed. Excluding autos, sales gained 0.4 per cent.

A separate Labor Department report showed the producer price index fell 0.1 per cent, led by food prices, while consumer confidence recorded its biggest decline in two years this month, based on the Conference Board index, which fell to 71.2 from 80.2 in September. Those reports followed figures this week showing weaker than expected factory production and sales of existing homes.

The US dollar strengthened to 98.17 yen and climbed to $1.3739 per euro on expectations the Fed will retain its US$85 billion a month of bond buying. The Dollar Index rose about 0.5 per cent to 79.634.

"Ahead of the FOMC, people might be a bit more prudent and reducing risk positions," Sebastien Galy, a senior foreign-exchange strategist at Societe Generale SA in New York, told Bloomberg. "The foreign-exchange market in general is more reticent to take on risk than the stock market."

Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, helped lift the Dow, gaining 1.7 per cent after reporting better-than-expected third-quarter earnings on sales of cancer drugs.

Apple dropped 1.1 per cent after saying gross margins will be 36.5 per cent to 37.5 per cent, below analysts' expectations of 38 per cent.

Google climbed 1.4 per cent and is up 45 per cent this year. Bloomberg reported that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has ordered lawmakers to halt legislative proceedings to focus of a plan to force online service providers such as Google to keep local-user information in data centers within the country.

The move follows revelations America's National Security Agency has spied on foreign leaders including Rousseff. Brazil is the third-largest market for Google's Android smartphone software, the report said.

JPMorgan Chase fell about 0.3 per cent. Reuters reported that the firm's US$13 billion draft settlement deal with the Department of Justice was stumbling because of its demands to shut down most criminal inquiries into its mortgage bond business.

Gold fell as the greenback's strength sapped demand for the precious metal as an alternative investment. Gold for December delivery fell 0.5 per cent to US$1,345.50 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, having reached a five-week high the previous day.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell on speculation US inventories are rising. WTI for December delivery fell 0.5 per cent to US$98.23 a barrel. A Bloomberg survey showed analysts expect stockpiles rose for a sixth straight week, last week. The Energy Information Administration data is released on Wednesday.

Brent crude for December declined 0.5 per cent to US$109.07 a barrel in London.

- BusinessDesk

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