Oil prices retreat from 3-1/2 year peak

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US and European equity markets essentially treaded water Friday while oil prices retreated, concluding a turbulent week marked by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear pact.

The US president’s Iran announcement on Tuesday triggered a surge in oil prices to levels unseen in over three years.

But oil prices pulled back Friday, with some analysts pointing to profit taking and others seeing the move as motivated by the belief that other major OPEC producers could boost output as needed.

Traders meanwhile welcomed below-forecast US inflation data on Thursday that dented expectations for a sharp rise in US interest rates, which buoyed the prospect of continued cheap borrowing.

US stocks finished mostly higher, with the Dow and S&P 500 advancing modestly and the Nasdaq slipping. Major US indices finished the week up more than two percent.

“Good earnings and mild inflation numbers are a great formula for the markets,” said Jack Ablin chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors.

London stocks rose modestly, while France and Germany declined somewhat.

London’s FTSE 100 has recovered from its February slump and is now less than 100 points below its record high set in mid-January.

The CAC 40 set a record close on Thursday.

US health and pharma shares rallied after analysts concluded Trump’s plan to address high drug prices would not significantly affect industry profits, at least in the short run. Merck rose 2.8 percent, CVS Health 3.2 percent and Express Scripts 2.6 percent.

“The president plans to increase competition within the drug space and to change rules that have allowed some drugmakers to game the system,” said Briefing.com. “The blueprint lacked many details, however, prompting a sigh of relief from investors, who were worried about the possibility of imminent regulation.”

Cybersecurity company Symantec lost more than one third of its market value after it disclosed an internal probe that may lead it to restate results, and refused to take questions from analysts.

Symantec said its audit committee had retained independent counsel and that it “voluntarily contacted” US securities officials about the probe.

– Key figures around 2100 GMT –

New York – Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 24,831.17 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.2 percent at 2,727.72 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 7,402.88 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,724.55 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 0.2 percent at 13,001.24 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 5,541.94 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,565.79 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.2 percent at 22,758.48 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.0 percent at 31,122.06 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.4 percent at 3,163.26 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1943 from $1.1915 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3542 from $1.3519

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.29 yen from 109.40 yen

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 35 cents at $77.12 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 66 cents at $70.70 per barrel


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