Wall Street nearly recouped overnight losses and was inching toward gains on Tuesday after some bell-weather retailers reported strong second-quarter earnings, suggesting that Americans have continued to spend despite the worst inflation in 40 years. Futures for the Dow and S and P each fell less than 1 per cent in premarket trading.
Retail giants Walmart and Home Depot, whose quarterly financial results often give investors insight into broader consumer habits, both reported strong second quarter earnings, giving markets a boost before the opening bell. Walmart earned USD 5.15 billion, or USD 1.77 adjusted for one-time costs and charges, easily topping Wall Street's target of USD 1.62 per shares.
Sales also beat analysts projections and shares rose more than 4 per cent before the opening bell. Home Depot reported record quarterly profit and revenue, but shares dipped less than 1 per cent as the home improvement retailer maintained its guidance for the year.
Stocks in July had their best month in a year-and-a-half, but some analysts say prices haven't properly reflected real risks. It doesn't seem to matter what the news is, there is just a huge appetite to buy stocks. And to keep buying, said Clifford Bennett, chief economist at ACY Securities.
Talk of the bottom having already been priced in seems somewhat premature. Should the market turn down again after all this long positioning, it will fall with a thunderous impact. Buyers beware. Shares in Europe rose and Asian markets were mixed a day after China reported negative economic data and analysts warned that volatility may lie ahead.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 was little changed and finished at 28,868.91. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.2 per cent to 2,533.52. Australia's S and P/ASX 200 added 0.6 per cent to 7,105.40.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng reversed course and was down 1.1 per cent at 19,830.52, while the Shanghai Composite gained nearly 0.1 per cent to 3,277.88. Markets reacted to news that China's central bank cut a key interest rate, acknowledging more needed to be done to shore up its economy.
The move is the latest warning for markets already on edge over record-high inflation and fears about recessions in the US and elsewhere. China is the world's second-largest consumer of crude oil, so the news weighed on energy prices on Monday, but were back up slightly on Tuesday.
US crude gained 74 cents to USD 90.15 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 43 cents to USD 95.53. In Europe, France's CAC 40 added 0.4 per cent in midday trading and Germany's DAX rose 0.5 per cent. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.7 per cent.
Global investors are worried that the US Federal Reserve could hit the brakes too hard and send the economy into a recession. Any signal that inflation could be peaking or retreating has helped ease some of those worries. Lack of direction is what investors will be suffering until we see clearer signs of inflation abating. And that will take time, as we must see a couple of encouraging data points to call the central banks' inflation fight successful. The lack of clear direction is driving the markets up and down, said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.
Investors are also keeping a close watch on how inflation is affecting businesses and consumers. Spending has slowed and the broader economy has already contracted for two straight quarters. Following Walmart and Home Depot, Target reports results on Wednesday. The US Commerce Department also releases its July retail sales report on Wednesday. Economists surveyed by FactSet expect modest 0.2 per cent growth from June, when sales rose 1 per cent.
In currency trading, the US dollar edged up to 134.39 Japanese yen from 133.27 yen. The euro cost USD 1.0130, down from USD 1.0165. (AP)