While you were sleeping: Procter and Gamble downgrade

Wall Street edged lower as Procter & Gamble cut its earnings forecast because of the recent slides in emerging markets currencies, prompting concern more US companies will follow suit.

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.24 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 inched 0.01 percent lower. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.20 percent.

Shares of Procter & Gamble, last 2.2 percent weaker, led the Dow lower.

Procter & Gamble downgraded its full-year profit and sales forecast for this year because of foreign exchange rates, particularly in Venezuela.

The downgrade also reflected the "devaluation of the Argentine peso, Turkish lira, South African rand, Russian ruble, Ukrainian hryvnia, Brazilian real and several other currencies to the US dollar," the company said in a statement.

Ali Dibadj, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein & Co in New York, expects more companies will make similar announcements, according to Bloomberg News.

Meanwhile, there was positive news from China though analysts struggled to make sense of the data. China's total exports jumped 10.6 percent in January from a year earlier, according to a Customs Administration report, far above expectations.

Economists polled by Reuters had predicted a 2 percent rise, while those surveyed by Bloomberg News had forecast a 0.1 percent gain. Imports rose 10 percent.

"We find this strong level of export growth puzzling," Zhang Zhiwei, an economist at Nomura, told Reuters. "It is unclear to what extent the strong export data reflects the true strength in the economy."

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session 0.8 percent higher than the previous close. France's CAC 40 gained 0.5 percent, while Germany's DAX increased 0.7 percent.

The UK's FTSE 100 edged less than 0.1 percent higher as investors digested the Bank of England's inflation report in which it upgraded its expectations for growth this year, raising its forecast to 3.4 percent from the previous 2.8 percent.

While BOE Governor Mark Carney indicated interest rates will remain low, investors wonder whether that will be the case as the economy gathers momentum faster than expected.

"Carney's reference to interest rates being at 2.0 percent in three years' time marks a sea-change in policy," Trevor Welsh, head of UK sovereign and inflation at Aviva Investors, told Reuters. "Effectively, the Bank of England is now looking at time well within its forecast horizon when emergency interest rates will no longer be necessary."

The British pound rose 0.8 percent to US$1.6581 and strengthened 1.2 percent to 81.96 pence per euro.

Separately, industrial production in the euro zone fell a larger-than-expected 0.7 percent in December, down from a revised 1.6 percent gain the previous month.

(BusinessDesk)

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