* U.S. debt ceiling gridlock weighs on sentiment
* MSCI world index falls from near 18-month highs
* Yen up after minister warns on excessive weakness
By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, Jan 15 World equity markets slipped
and safe-haven U.S. Treasury debt rose on Tuesday as a looming
battle in Washington over the government's borrowing limit and a
recovery in the yen weakened demand for riskier assets.
Investors were cautious as Republican opposition in Congress
to increase the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling raises the risk that
the United States could default on its debt in coming months.
A warning by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on the
economic effects of any failure to agree to a higher ceiling, a
Treasury prediction the limit could be hit by mid-February and
President Barack Obama's tough negotiating stance hit equity
markets, which have gained since the New Year.
"There's a little bit of a risk-off trade," said Thomas
Graff, fixed-income portfolio manager at Brown Advisory in
Baltimore. "It looks like stocks reacting negatively to the
wrangling over the U.S. debt ceiling, so Treasuries are higher."
Still, the likelihood of the United States not raising the
debt ceiling and declaring default is "very low," Graff said.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 9.31 points,
or 0.07 percent, at 13,516.63. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was down 0.25 points, or 0.02 percent, at 1,470.43. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was down 10.64 points, or 0.34
percent, at 3,106.86.
Weak results from software company SAP pulled
technology stocks down, with Germany's benchmark DAX index
falling to a 2013 low, but European shares ended flat.
SAP took the most points off the FTSEurofirst 300 index
of top European shares and also hit the STOXX Europe
600 technology index, which fell 2.1 percent to make it
the region's worst-performing equity sector.
The Eurofirst 300 index of top shares closed 0.04
percent higher at a provisional 1,160.22 after a late-day rally
The MSCI world equity index slipped 0.09
percent to 349.70, still near an 18-month high.
World equity markets and corporate bonds have risen sharply
this year on a widely held view that the Federal Reserve's
supportive monetary policies will boost the U.S. economic
recovery while keeping returns on safe-haven assets such as
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up
5/32 in price to yield 1.829 percent.
A contraction in New York state manufacturing for a sixth
straight month in January also weighed on stocks, even as U.S.
retail sales rose solidly in December, suggesting momentum in
consumer spending as the year ended.
Other U.S. data on Tuesday showed inflation pressures
remained muted, with wholesale prices declining for a third
straight month in December.
The yen gained against the dollar, rebounding from four
straight days of losses that pushed it to a 2-1/2 year low, as a
warning from a Japanese minister about the disadvantages of
excessive yen weakness prompted investors to shed bearish bets.
The dollar was down 0.84 percent at 88.71 against the
yen. The euro was down 0.72 percent at $1.3285.
Brent crude oil fell $1.51 to $110.37, while U.S.
light sweet crude oil fell 86 cents to settle at $93.28
Spot gold prices rose $14.20 to $1,681.00.