Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Markets in turmoil as more bloodshed looms in Libya

The unrest in the Middle East now centred on Libya appears to be getting worse. From Bloomberg today:

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi vowed to fight a growing rebellion until his “last drop of blood,” as parts of the capital, Tripoli, resembled a war zone and some of his followers defected to the opposition.

In Tripoli, bodies were left in the streets after an attack on protesters by pro-Qaddafi gunmen, the opposition National Front for the Salvation of Libya said. In the eastern city of Benghazi, where the protests began, the flag of the constitutional monarchy overthrown by Qaddafi in 1969 flew on streets and over several buildings and there were no security forces in evidence except traffic police, witnesses said.

Already, markets have been in turmoil. Bloomberg reports the action on Tuesday.

Oil surged to a two-year high, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index sank the most since August, as escalating violence in Libya spurred concern that Middle East instability will hurt the world economy. Treasuries and the Swiss franc rose. New Zealand’s dollar slid after an earthquake.

Oil for March delivery jumped 8.6 percent from the Feb. 18 settlement to $93.57 a barrel. The S&P 500 Index lost 2.1 percent to 1,315.44, its biggest drop in six months, as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. tumbled after sales trailed its own forecast. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index climbed 27 percent, the most since May. Ten-year Treasury yields slid 13 basis points and the franc gained 0.9 percent versus the dollar...

Oil’s rally today triggered losses in other commodities amid concern rising energy prices will slow economic growth.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.6 percent to extend a three-day retreat, with four shares falling for every one that rose...

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index lost 1.9 percent, its largest drop in almost two weeks. Indexes in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Tunisia, South Africa, Taiwan and South Korea slid more than 1 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index declined 2.6 percent, the most in a month.

Mixed domestic economic data provided little support for US markets.

U.S. equities also declined after the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home values in 20 cities fell 2.4 percent in December from the same month in 2009, the biggest 12-month decrease in a year. Benchmark indexes briefly pared losses as a gauge of consumer confidence rose to the highest level in three years. The Conference Board’s index of sentiment rose to 70.4, topping the median forecast for a little changed reading of 65.5.

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