Dow briefly crosses 23,000 for 1st time

Roland JACKSON
European and US stock markets hung near record highs as US banks reported earnings

The Dow edged to a fresh record Tuesday, briefly topping 23,000 points for the first time, following a batch of mostly good earnings.

The new US landmark came on a muted day otherwise for global equities, with European bourses down slightly. The dollar gained against the euro and the pound.

Big gains by health care companies Johnson & Johnson and United Healthcare following earnings led the blue-chip index to another record of 22,997.44, up 0.2 percent after earlier hitting 23,002.20.

US stocks have broken numerous records since President Donald Trump last month released at an outline of his tax cut plan. Other key factors behind the boom include relatively low interest rates and solid earnings.

Still, analysts are cautious about the market's ability to rise further in the coming weeks.

A note last week from Wells Fargo Investment Institute predicted the S&P 500 would experience a "modest pullback" by the end of the year, while Goldman Sachs said the trajectory would depend on the fate of the tax cut plan

Goldman projected the S&P 500 would fall to 2,400 without tax reform, but could rise to 2,650 if the plan is enacted.

London equities slipped into negative territory despite the pound sliding. News that annual British inflation jumped in September to 3.0 percent -- the highest level in more than five years -- was outweighed by comments by central bankers they were in no rush to raise interest rates.

Frankfurt also drifted lower at the end of trading, despite news that German investor confidence inched upwards in October, according to the ZEW institute's headline barometer. During the session it rose to less than two points shy of its record high before sliding back.

Madrid rose 0.4 percent as a judge ordered the detention of two Catalan separatist leaders.

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets said that European equities are "holding close to their highs as investors continue to look through geopolitical risk, increasingly at ease with the prospect of tighter monetary policy.

"Confidence is high of yet another supportive earnings season on both sides of the Atlantic, as are hopes of US congressional and UK/EU deadlocks being broken, allowing Trump to deliver on tax reform and the door to be opened for further Brexit negotiations," he added.

- Tokyo scales new heights -

Asian equities diverged Tuesday as traders took a breather after recent strong gains, with more records on Wall Street unable to spur strong buying.

Tokyo however rose 0.4 percent to chalk up an 11th straight gain.

That put the benchmark Nikkei at a new 21-year high, as upbeat Japanese corporate earnings outweighed concerns about overheating.

The dollar extended Monday's gains against the euro following comments from Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen hinting at a further interest rate rise this year.

But Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management, said uncertainty over North Korea and Trump's plans for selecting a head of the Fed "should keep the greenback under pressure."

- Key figures around 2100 GMT -

New York - DOW: UP 0.2 percent at 22,997.44 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.1 percent at 2,559.36 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 6,623.65 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 at 7,516.17 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 at 12,995.06 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 5,361.37 (close)

Madrid - IBEX 35: UP 0.4 percent at 10,216.80 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.2 percent at 3,614.01

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 21,336.12 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 28,697.49 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,372.04 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1766 from $1.1796 at 2100 GMT on Monday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3194 from $1.3252

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.20 yen from 112.21 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 6 cents at $57.88 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 1 cent at $51.88 per barrel

burs-jmb/mdo