LONDON (AP) — Stock markets ran out of steam Friday after a closely watched U.S. survey of consumer confidence reinforced concerns over the impact of rising oil prices.
In its monthly survey, the University of Michigan said its main index of consumer confidence unexpectedly fell to 74.3 in March from 75.3 in February, in a sign that households may be getting increasingly cautious over the increase in gas prices at the pump.
Given that the U.S. consumer accounts for around 70 percent of the U.S. economy, the survey served to keep the recent optimism in check especially at a time when oil prices are elevated on concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.
“This is another piece of evidence that supports the view that the economy is growing only modestly and that there are no signs of acceleration in the stars,” said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co.
In recent weeks, stocks have rallied on the combination of upbeat U.S. economic data and a more benign European debt backdrop despite some unease over the rise in the price of oil, which could cloud the investment picture by threatening the global recovery. Many of the world’s major indexes are trading at multi-month highs. On Wall Street, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed Thursday above 1,400 for the first time since May 2008.
But the consumer confidence figures acted to keep a lid on that optimism Friday.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.42 percent at 5,965 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.41 percent to 3,594. Germany’s DAX was 0.1 percent higher too at 7,157.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average and the broader S&P 500 were broadly flat at 13,252 and 1,404, respectively.
The euro was outperforming the dollar as the U.S. currency has garnered support in recent days from the run of strong U.S. data. The euro was trading 0.7 percent higher at $1.3175.