Market jitters bubble up again

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● European and US equity gauges soft after mixed Asia session
Vix index sits at four-month high amid wariness over earnings
Gold and Japanese yen advance as investors seek bolt holes
● Brent crude slips back after recent strong run
● The euro dips and French bond yields rise amid election jitters

Lingering geopolitical concerns, a holiday-shortened week delivering thin trading conditions, and caution ahead of the corporate earnings season, are combining to leave global markets in tentative mood.

Equity benchmarks are struggling for traction and many perceived haven assets are signalling investor angst.

The CBOE Vix index, an option-based measure of expected volatility for US stocks known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, jumped 9.2 per cent to 14.05 on Monday.

That is well below the Vix’s long term average of around 20, but was still its highest close in more than four months and the bounce caught traders’ attention because it came alongside a 0.1 per cent advance for the S&P 500 index. The Vix and S&P 500 tend to have an inverse correlation.

Index futures suggest the S&P 500 will shed 5.5 points to 2,351.5 when trading gets under way later in New York.

Investor demand for supposedly safe investments has picked up recently, with missile tests by North Korea and a US missile strike on Syria lifting the prices of assets such as government bonds, gold and the Japanese yen.

That trend is back in play again on Tuesday. The yield on 10-year US Treasuries is down 0.02 percentage points (2 basis points) to 2.34 per cent, while equivalent maturity German Bund yields are 1bp softer at 0.20 per cent, their lowest in five weeks.

In contrast, the yield on French 10-year paper is up 2bp to 0.95 per cent as worries about the outcome of the country’s general election see investors demanding a higher premium for lending to Paris.

The yen is 0.3 per cent stronger at ¥110.61 per dollar, while gold is up 0.2 per cent to $1,256 an ounce.

Commodities
Oil prices are stalling after a two week rally partly propelled by concerns about Middle East supply disruptions. Brent crude, the international benchmark that brushed $50 a barrel on March 27, is slipping 0.2 per cent to $55.88 a barrel.

West Texas Intermediate, the main US contract, is down 0.3 per cent to $53.09.

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