Europe We've seen a bit of a softer tone in equity markets today after the World Bank adjusted its growth forecasts downward for 2013. The German finance ministry also downgraded its growth forecast for 2013 to 0.4%, but this has merely brought it into line with the Bundesbank projection of last month. We've also seen a very disappointing report on new car sales in Europe which dropped again by 16.3% in December to their lowest levels since 1995. Given the news flow today it's hard to fathom why markets aren't lower than they are, given the continued stream of bad news from the retail sector. Following on from the administration of Jessops and HMV we've seen DVD chain Blockbuster follow suit today as it succumbs to competition from the more agile business models of internet rivals, Netflix, LoveFilm and Apple TV. Also out today we've seen disappointing numbers from French Connection with the likelihood that tomorrow we could well also see a disappointing update from last year's retail outperformer Dixons. There was a bright spot with chocolatier Thorntons posting better than expected numbers for the last quarter; however the shares have slipped back, probably as a result of being near one year highs. Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds have slid back after this morning's report that they might have to raise billions pounds of extra capital. The biggest faller is Imperial Tobacco after going ex-dividend, while Vodafone is also under pressure from a broker downgrade. On the plus side TUI Travel is the biggest riser on the back of reports that its parent company TUI AG is going to mount a takeover. Shire Pharmaceuticals is also higher after being upgraded by Citigroup on the basis that it is undervalued relative to its peers. US US markets have appeared underwhelmed by the latest earnings reports from US banks despite JP Morgan beating expectations. The Dow has been dragged lower by Boeing's latest problems with its 787 Dreamliner aeroplane. Concerns that the problems could escalate into a loss of orders and/or production delays have seen investors vote with their feet and exercise a safety first approach. US economic data was pretty much as expected with CPI and industrial production coming in as expected. Particular attention is likely to be focussed on tonight's publication of the Fed's Beige Book of economic activity, which will give updates on economic activity in the various Fed regions. It is to be hoped that the shenanigans in the lead up to the fiscal cliff didn't put too much of a dampener on activity in the last month of the calendar year. FX The Japanese yen has continued its gains of yesterday after overnight comments from Japanese officials about the speed of the recent yen decline. The worst performer has been the pound dropping below the 1.6000 level against the US dollar for the first time since November, ahead of key retail sales data later this week, while concerns about the economic outlook in the wake of this week's retail woes are also weighing. The commodity currencies of the Australian and Canadian dollar are also a little on the heavy side today ahead of key Chinese GDP and industrial production data later this week. Commodities A surprise fall in crude oil inventories has seen US oil prices jump higher despite the weaker tone in equity markets. A shortfall of nearly 1 million barrels, against an expectation of a rise of 2 million barrels has seen WTI prices push back above $94 back towards yesterday's highs. Production problems in the North Sea appear to have had little effect on the Brent price given that a lot of it is already in the price given that the frequent problems in this region over the past 12 months. The material (whether or not it states any opinions) is for general information purposes only, and does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. Nothing in this material is (or should be considered to be) financial, investment or other advice on which reliance should be placed. No opinion given in the material constitutes a recommendation by CMC Markets or the author that any particular investment, security, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.