Equity markets remain cautious ahead of US reporting season

<p>Equity markets remained in the red as miners and oils dragged the indices lower as investors focussed on Chinese demand and last week’s poor US […]</p>

Equity markets remained in the red as miners and oils dragged the indices lower as investors focussed on Chinese demand and last week’s poor US payroll number. Weak import data from China over the weekend was enough to drive miners lower again for the third straight day, with Rio Tinto and Billiton posting percent losses. The ongoing fallout from the Australia floods continued to weigh on the sector with copper producer Xstrata trading down to its lowest levels this year.

Banks too were weaker as peripheral European debt worries resurfaced with attention switching to Portugal over the weekend, they countered concerns with the familiar protestation that they will not need to follow Greece and Ireland’s fate. Investors will recall however that both countries voiced the same defence repeatedly before being forced to accept help from the EU emergency fund.

BP was back in the headlines, shedding 5pence after the Trans Alaska Pipeline remained shut for another second day, sending crude higher and stocks lower. This week is a big one for retailers as M&S, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco’s will all update the markets, giving an indication to how budget cut Britain has fared over the all-important Christmas period.

Meanwhile this week marks the start of another reporting season in the US, with Alcoa kicking off proceedings this evening and bell-weather Intel and JPMorgan later in the week. Investors remain optimistic about equity prospects for the year, and decent fourth-quarter numbers could be the catalyst to driving the market back through previous two-year highs. Despite the recent drift from the highs, Bulls seem to have the edge and consensus remains that we are due to push higher before we see any major correction.

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