Global Stocks Mixed, Wall Street Steady as Syria Strikes Keep Investors on Edge

Frankfurt (Apr 16)  European stocks edged lower Monday, with Wall Street futures pointing to a tentative start to the trading week, as global investor concern over prolonged military action in Syria faded and focus shifted to a heavy slate of U.S. corporate earnings in the days ahead.

Early indications from U.S. equity futures suggest a 150-point opening bell gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average  and an 15.25 point, or 0.6%, advance for the broader S&P 500  . Nasdaq  futures are suggesting a 40-point gain for the tech-heavy benchmark.

Market direction is more likely to be dictated by this week's heavy slate of corporate earnings, however, with first quarter reports due from financial sector giants Bank of America Corp. (BAC) , Action Alerts PLUS holding Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS) over the next three days, along with Dow components such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) , General Electric (GE) , IBM Corp. (IBM) and Action Alerts PLUS holding UnitedHealth (UNH) .

S&P 500 companies are expected to report first quarter earnings growth of around 20% compared to the same period last year, according to FactSet estimates, although stocks are still trading at a 12-month forward P/E ratio of 16.4, a figure that is well above the 10-year average of 14.3. 

In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 index, the region's broadest measure of share prices, slipped 0.18% by mid-day in Frankfurt, with a defensive tone to the session was apparent amid the rise of cash-rich pharmaceutical stocks offsetting modest declines for energy and industrial shares.

Shire Pharmaceuticals Plc (SHPG) said Monday that it will sell its oncology business to France's Servier SAS as it continues to discuss a possible $50 billion takeover play by Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. (TKPYY) Shire shares added 0.94% in London to change hands at 3,636 pence each, a move that takes its post-Takeda approach gain to around 19% and values it a just over $47 billion.

WPP Plc (WPP) shares were a big mover on the London market, falling 6% to 1,116.5 pence each, as investors reacted to the surprise resignation of long-time CEO and founder Sir Martin Sorrell. U.K. pub and coffee shop operator Whitbread plc gained more than 6.8% following confirmation the activist investor Elliott Management is now the company's largest investor with a 6% stake.

Overnight in Asia, markets were mixed following the weekend's military tensions in Syria, which saw the U.S., Britain and France fire more than 100 missiles on three suspected chemical weapons sites in response to an alleged gas attack by the regime of Bashar al-Assad on April 7, with the region-wide MSCI Asia ex-Japan index falling 0.67% and Japan's Nikkei 225 rising 0.26% by the end of the session.

The U.S. dollar index, which benchmarks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, remained steady at 89.75 even as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of "chaos in international relations" if western-led strikes were to continue. In the bond markets, Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries added 3 basis points to trade at 2.86%, while 2-year notes rose to 2.386%, the highest level in a decade. Ten-year German bunds were seen changing hands at a three-week high of 0.54%.

Global oil prices eased notably from last week's 8% rally, with Brent crude contracts for June delivery, the global benchmark, falling 1.6% to $71.37 per barrel while WTI contracts for the same month, which are more closely linked to U.S. gas prices, falling 1.6% to 66.33 per barrel.