Global uncertainty led to late profit-taking in stock markets

New York (AFP) - European stocks ran into profit-taking Friday as many investors, wary of global uncertainty and US President Donald Trump’s volatile Twitter diplomacy, cashed out before the weekend, traders said.

Bourses in Paris and Frankfurt had posted solid gains earlier in the session after Trump put off a decision about military strikes in Syria, giving investor nerves a welcome break.

Although tensions appeared to be easing, few dared to carry positions into the weekend, fearing they may regret it come Monday morning. Equity markets in Europe finished with modest gains.

“Traders remain cautious heading into the weekend,” said Craig Erlam at OANDA. “Given the backdrop of a trade conflict with China and rising tensions with Russia over Syria, any rallies may be somewhat gradual.”

Despite the lackluster ending to the week, European markets “have pulled off a third straight week of gains,” said Jasper Lawler at LCG, crediting “Trump Twitter fatigue” for the overall resilience of equity markets.

US stocks opened in positive territory, but quickly were under pressure after a batch of earnings reports from large US banks sparked a selloff in financial shares.

Although earnings from JPMorgan Chase and other large banks bested analyst expectations, the sector had risen in anticipation of the reports and the results – while good – were not strong enough to propel the stocks higher, analysts said.

“You had a sector selloff in financials,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. “When the group started selling off, it took the whole market with it.”

“It feels like we just ramped up expectations too much,” he added.

US earnings season picks up momentum next week with results from other large banks, as well as from General Electric, Netflix and others.

Analysts are hoping a successful US corporate earnings season will lift US stocks following a rocky period.

The market has been pressured by fears of a trade war, concerns about higher US interest rates and worries about the Trump administration’s prospects following myriad controversies and the near-constant churn of White House staff.

Among other markets, oil prices finished at fresh three-year highs after a report by the International Energy Agency highlighted turbulence in Syria in the oil-rich Middle East and the effectiveness of a deal between OPEC and Russia to limit output.

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 24,360.14 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.3 percent at 2,656.30 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,106.65 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,264.56 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.2 percent at 12,442.40 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.1 percent at 5,315.02 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.2 percent at 3,448.12 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 21,778.74 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.1 percent at 30,808.38 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,159.05 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2338 from $1.2327 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.35 yen from 107.33

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4241 from $1.4228

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 56 cents at $72.58 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 32 cents at $67.39 per barrel

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