By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks end Tuesday mixed, while the dollar falls against the yen on investor caution ahead of a news conference by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday.
European stock markets, which had opened broadly lower, closed the day on a firmer note, while Wall Street shares closed mixed, but with the Nasdaq Composite reaching an intra-day record peak.
Commodities such as copper gained on further signs of a pick-up in China's economy. Oil prices were lower on the day but off their weakest levels of the previous session when they fell nearly 4 percent.
In the United States, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 percent, to 19,855.53, while the S&P 500 ended flat at 2,268.90, as gains in healthcare and financials offset a drop in energy shares. Nasdaq, on the other hand, rose 0.4 percent to 5,551.82.
"Significant fiscal stimulus is being discussed when the U.S. economy is already healthy," said Richard Bernstein, chief investment officer at Richard Bernstein Advisors (RBA) in New York. RBA oversees $3 billion in assets.
"On paper, this would imply stronger stock markets, stronger commodity markets, and weaker bond markets," he added.
U.S. stocks have risen in the last two months in anticipation of easier fiscal policy based on Trump's campaign promises of increased infrastructure spending and tax cuts.
European stocks also ended higher, with Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index adding 0.1 percent to finish at 1,439.26. Earlier the index reached a record high.
The dollar, meanwhile, slid 0.3 percent to 115.84 yen, and was last flat against a basket of currencies at 102.00.
Uncertainty ahead of Trump's comments on Wednesday dampened demand for the dollar. Analysts said traders were watching hearings for his choices for senior administration posts, which started on Tuesday with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, the president-elect's choice for attorney general.
The peso, fell to a record low against the dollar. The greenback was last up more than 2 percent at 21.8360 pesos. The peso has fallen on worries about Trump's protectionist policies.
Sterling, meanwhile, fell to a 10-week low against the dollar earlier in the session but recovered in New York. It was last little changed at $1.2162.
The outlook for the pound remained shaky, especially after weekend comments by Prime Minister Theresa May that she is not interested in Britain keeping "bits" of its EU membership.
A revival of worries that Britain could be headed for a "hard Brexit," in which it chooses to take full control of immigration and give up access to the euro zone single market, reverberated across financial markets, lifting demand for safe haven assets such as German government bonds and gold. Gold rose to its highest in more than a month.
Oil prices continued to decline, with Brent crude down 2.3 percent at $53.67 per barrel. U.S. crude fell 2.2 percent, to $50.82.
TRUMP EVENT RISK
With little major U.S. data on the calendar, investors are focusing on Trump's news conference on Wednesday, his first since winning the election.
"Extreme long dollar positioning – especially against the yen – could come under pressure if remarks at Trump's press briefing or this week's confirmation hearings undermine the market's view that the incoming Trump administration will operate a pragmatic, rather than antagonistic, international trade policy," said Chris Turner, head of foreign exchange strategy at ING in London.
Benchmark 10-year yields in the U.S. Treasury market, meanwhile, were flat at 2.377 percent.
In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6 percent, to 441.02. Japan's benchmark Nikkei average closed down 0.8 percent at 19,301.44, while the broader Topix shed 0.7 percent to 1,542.31.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Additional reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe in London, Sam Forgione and Caroline Valetkevitch in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish and Steve Orlofsky)