Loonie, North American stocks show choppy fluctuations

LONDON -- Global stock markets were weighed down Monday by the failure of the world's leading economic policymakers to announce any new measures to boost the global economy.

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Some relief emerged with the news that China's monetary authorities had cut the amount of deposits that banks have to keep in reserve at the central bank.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.3 per cent at 6,080 while Germany's DAX fell 1 per cent to 9,414. The CAC-40 in France was fairing a little better, trading flat at 4,313. U.S. stocks were expected to open modestly lower with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 per cent.

SHANGHAI SUMMIT: The main focus in the markets at the start of the week was the outcome of the weekend meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 rich and developing countries. Though they promised to use "all tools" at their disposal to bolster weak global growth, nothing substantive emerged.

ANALYST TAKE: "Rather predictably the G-20 communique was an exercise in saying a lot, while doing very little," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

CHINA IN FOCUS: China was also in focus after the country's authorities guided the tightly controlled yuan sharply lower on Monday morning, in a move that contributed to big falls in Chinese stocks. Later, the People's Bank of China cut the required reserve ratio for all banks by 50 basis points to 17 per cent in an attempt to inject more money into its slowing economy. The move should free up cash for banks to lend to the wider economy and may be an indication that the country's authorities are getting less concerned about the flow of capital out of the country, which has been one of the main reasons behind this year's turmoil in global markets.

EUROPE DEFLATION: Stock markets in Europe were helped somewhat by news that inflation across the 19-country eurozone turned negative in February. The euro though fell as traders priced in the growing likelihood of a further monetary stimulus from the European Central Bank at its meeting on March 10. Statistics agency Eurostat said consumer prices across the region were down 0.2 per cent in February from the year before, against a 0.3 per cent rise the previous month. The decline, which was largely due to lower energy costs, was way more than anticipated -- the consensus in the markets was for a drop to zero.

CURRENCIES: The euro was down 0.4 per cent at $1.0883 while the dollar fell 0.7 per cent to 113.16 yen.

ASIAN SCORECARD: The yen's strength weighed heavily on Japan's benchmark index, which fell 1 per cent to close at 16,026.76. Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.2 per cent to end at 1,916.66 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 1.3 per cent to 19,111.93. The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 2.9 per cent to 2,687.98 after the yuan's decline.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 12 cents to $32.90 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 29 cents, or 1 per cent, to settle at $32.78 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 30 cents to $35.76.


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