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Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
LONDON (AP) — Higher than expected Chinese inflation figures on Thursday gave investors a chance to cash in on recent gains, which have sent some of the world’s stock indexes up to record highs.
Government figures showed China’s consumer price index rose 2.4 percent in the year to April, up from 2.1 percent the previous month and ahead of expectations of a more modest advance to 2.2 percent.
“Sentiment has soured somewhat in Asia after that fractionally higher than expected Chinese CPI reading as this may prompt Beijing to attempt to cool demand,” said Fawad Razaqzada, market strategist at GFT Markets.
“Should this happen then the consequences will likely be played out on a global basis, but given the overshoot was so limited, the caution may be somewhat exaggerated by the fact markets are simply looking a bit toppy at these levels,” he added.
In Europe, Germany’s DAX, which has set a series of record highs, was down 0.2 percent at 8,238. The CAC-40 in France was 1.1 percent lower at 3,915 while the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 0.1 percent to 6,578 ahead of the monthly Bank of England policy decision — no change in interest rates or its stimulus program are expected.
Trading in many parts of Europe was light as many countries were on a public holiday, though markets remained open.
U.S. shares were also poised for a modest retreat after days of closing record highs — both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures were down 0.1 percent. There’s little economic and corporate news later, meaning that weekly jobless claims figures may be the focus of attention. Last week’s figures showed claims down at a five-year low. A modest uptick to 335,000 is expected.
Currency markets were fairly subdued too, with the euro 0.1 percent lower at $1.3142.
Many reasons have been cited for the recent strength of stock markets around the world, including hopes over the U.S. economy, a seeming easing in Europe’s debt crisis and an aggressive new monetary policy from the Bank of Japan.
Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.7 percent to 14,191.48 — a modest retreat after a strong run that’s sent the Nikkei up to five-year highs.
Another aspect of the Bank of Japan’s massive monetary stimulus has been to weaken the yen dramatically. That feeds through into stocks as a lower currency makes the country’s exports relatively cheaper. On Thursday, the dollar was 0.2 percent lower at 98.72 yen.
Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.1 percent to 23,211.48 after the Chinese inflation figures. However, mainland Chinese shares were mixed with the Shanghai Composite Index down 0.6 percent to 2,232.97 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.2 percent to 967.69.
South Korea’s Kospi index was also in focus as it jumped 1.2 percent to 1,979.45 after the Bank of Korea lowered its benchmark interest rate for the first time in seven months. In announcing that it was lowering the rate by a quarter percentage point to 2.5 percent, the Bank of Korea became the latest central bank to take steps to boost flagging economic growth.
Oil prices drifted lower alongside equities following recent strong gains — the benchmark New York contract was down 54 cents at $96.08 a barrel.
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.
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