Asian stock markets, US futures dented by New York Ebola case

Asian markets trimmed their gains Friday and U.S. stock futures fell after a doctor in New York who recently returned from West Africa tested positive for Ebola.

KEEPING SCORE: Dow Jones futures fell 0.4 per cent to 16,541 and S&P 500 futures dropped 0.6 per cent to 1,934.90. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 0.5 per cent at 23,217.36 while Japan’s Nikkei 225 was up 0.8 per cent at 15,252.72. Seoul’s Kospi was down 0.5 per cent at 1,922.53 and Australia’s S&P/ASX rose 0.5 per cent to 5,409.30.

EBOLA: An emergency room doctor who returned to New York after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. It’s the first case in the city and the fourth in the U.S. The mayor said there’s no reason for residents to be alarmed and all city officials followed “clear and strong” protocols in their handling and treatment of the man. Governments have been increasing safeguard measures as Ebola rages in a handful of West African nations, fearing significant human and economic costs if the deadly epidemic spreads.

THE QUOTE: “Concerns over Ebola in the U.S. may filter through into Asian markets today,” said Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC in Sydney.

FED MEETING: The focus of investors will increasingly turn to next week’s Federal Reserve policy meeting for confirmation the U.S. central bank is ending its bond buying program; the policy has kept interest rates low to support economic recovery but also boosted stock markets as investors sought higher returns. Recent mixed signals about the strength of the U.S. recovery prompted speculation the Fed might let the program continue for longer.

WALL STREET: A combination of strong company earnings and encouraging economic reports, both in the U.S. and Europe, gave the stock market another day of solid gains on Thursday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 23.71 points, or 1.2 per cent, to 1,950.82. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 216.58 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 16,677.90. The Nasdaq composite rose 69.95 points, or 1.6 per cent, to 4,452.79.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 62 cents at $81.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange; it jumped Thursday on reports of lower production in Saudi Arabia and signs of strength in the U.S. economy. Brent crude was down 65 cents at $86.18 on the ICE futures exchange in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.2655 from $1.2650 late Wednesday. The dollar fell to 108 yen from 108.17 yen.