SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global shares were mixed Thursday, with Europe steady and Asia posting modest losses after main Wall Street benchmarks fell for the first time in 2018. Unconfirmed reports Thursday that China may slow its purchases of U.S. government bonds weighed on investor sentiment. China's trade minister rejected the reports as false.
KEEPING SCORE: Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.1 percent to 7,744.75. France's CAC 40 was flat at 5,505.51, while Germany's DAX dipped 0.2 percent to 13,260.53. Futures augured a lackluster start on Wall Street. S&P futures added 0.1 percent and Dow futures also added 0.1 percent.
CHINA: A report by Bloomberg News said China is considering slowing or halting its purchases of U.S. Treasurys, which helped push yields higher. The report triggered sell-offs of U.S. government bonds and the yield on the 10-year Treasury reached its highest level since March at one point before pulling back. China's foreign exchange regulator challenged the report that it might slow or stop purchases of U.S. Treasury debt due to trade tensions with Washington as "fake news."
ANALYST'S TAKE: "Justifiably, Beijing's biggest worry is that the value of its U.S. bond holdings will be eroded substantially by rising inflation and supply," Mizuho Bank Ltd. said in a daily commentary. But it added that "Doubts about (U.S. bonds) allure should not be overblown as a threat of imminent dumping."
SOUTH KOREA: Bitcoin prices in South Korea gyrated, sinking as much as about 20 percent, after the country's justice minister said it plans to ban crypto currency trading. South Korea's presidential office later said the ban is under review and no decision has been made on whether or not to implement it. The justice ministry has taken the sternest stance on digital currencies among South Korean ministries but other government agencies reported oppose an outright ban on bitcoin and other virtual currency trading.
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 23,710.43 and South Korea's Kospi retreated 0.5 percent to 2,487.91. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged 0.2 percent higher to 31,120.39 and the Shanghai Composite index erased earlier losses to edge 0.1 percent higher at 3,425.34. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slumped 0.5 percent to 6,067.60. Most stock markets in Southeast Asia were weaker.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.63 Japanese yen from 111.43 yen. The euro fell slightly to $1.1947 from $1.1948.
OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 17 cents to $63.74 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 61 cents to settle at $63.57 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 14 cents to $69.34 per barrel in London. It gained 38 cents to $69.20 a barrel on Wednesday.