Oil gains, global stocks fall on Libya

2011-02-23 17:11

New York - World stocks slid further from recent 30-month highs on Wednesday as violence in Libya pushed oil prices higher while fanning concerns about inflation and the global economic recovery.

On Wall Street the Dow was slightly lower a day after stocks' worst session since August, but fears that unrest in Libya could spread to other oil-producing nations in the region and choke off exports pressured European equities and pushed safe-haven government bonds higher.

US light sweet crude oil rose $1.46 to $96.88 a barrel, the the highest level since October 2008.

The euro and sterling, meanwhile, rose versus the dollar on expectations that interest rates in the euro zone and Britain will rise sooner than US rates and likely keep the greenback under pressure.

The euro was up 0.53% at $1.3725.

Traders said prospects of higher inflation and interest rates took center stage in currency markets, pushing aside concerns about political tensions in North Africa.

Copper, often a barometer of economic demand, fell to the lowest levels in nearly a month on worries inflation could weigh on the global economic recovery. The metal has slipped nearly 7% from record highs at $10 190 a tonne earlier in the month

Much of the market's focus remained on Libya where Muammar Gaddafi's attempts to crush a revolt against his four-decade rule have killed as many as 1 000 people, Italy's foreign minister said.

"The turmoil is not only about inflation and oil, but it is affecting equity markets and those safe-haven flows have been dominating recently," said Glenn Marci, strategist at DZ Bank.

"We might see some calmer markets, but I'm not totally convinced the rally will stop here," Marci said, referring to debt instruments.

US Treasuries prices slipped as investors took profits from Tuesday's safe-haven rally due to North African turmoil and in an effort to force a price concession before a five-year debt sale.

The benchmark 10-year US Treasury note was down 1/32 in price to yield 3.46%.

The MSCI world equity index was down 0.2% and Wall Street was mixed.

The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 28.87 points, or 0.24%, to 12 183.92. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index edged up 0.65 point, or 0.05%, to 1 316.09. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.45 point, or 0.02%, to 2 756.87.