Amid easing of tensions over downing of Malaysia jet, markets solid despite mixed US data

LONDON – Markets were solid Thursday as geopolitical tensions largely related to the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine subsided somewhat and after further upbeat U.S. jobs data was offset somewhat by surprisingly weak homes data.

Since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed last week with the cost of all 298 on board, investors have been edgy but stocks have still managed to eke out some gains, particularly over the past few days as tensions on the ground eased.

“The search for a reason for a correction goes on, and while everyone keeps looking, they’re missing the real story, namely the one that shows the market doesn’t want to go down, yet,” said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 0.3 per cent at 6,821.46 while Germany’s DAX rose 0.6 per cent to 9,794.06. The CAC-40 in France ended 0.8 per cent higher at 4,410.65.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.1 per cent at 17,103 while the broader S&P 500 index rose 0.2 per cent to 1,991.

Mixed U.S. economic data kept Wall Street in check. The Labor Department reported weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000 claims. That’s the lowest reading since February 2006. However, soon after the Commerce Department reported that new home sales plunged 8.1 per cent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 406,000.

Earlier in Asia, an improvement in China’s manufacturing provided a floor for Asian stock markets. HSBC’s index of China factory activity rose to 52.0 in July from 50.7 in June on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate contraction. July’s reading was the highest in 18 months.

China’s Shanghai Composite gained 1.3 per cent to 2,105.06.

Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, fell 0.3 per cent to close at 15,284.42, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 0.7 per cent at 24,136.43.

In other markets, trading was muted with the euro flat at $1.3466 and the dollar up 0.3 per cent at 101.80 yen.