LONDON, July 18 — The world’s major stock markets were mostly firmer today as a bullish outlook from the head of the US central bank buoyed the dollar, lifted bond yields and sent safe-haven gold to a one-year trough.
Wall Street’s jump back above the 2,600 points mark overnight was also still lifting spirits early on in Europe.
London’s FTSE made 0.5 per cent as the pound continued to suffer the Brexit blues, while Germany’s Dax surged to a one-month high on hopes the European Union and United States could cut a deal on car tariffs.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei had also hit one-month top as a weakening yen promised to fatten exporters’ profits.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.1 per cent and Australia 0.6 per cent. Shanghai blue chips started firm only to flag as China’s yuan lost ground to the advancing dollar.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell stuck with an upbeat assessment on the US economy while downplaying the impact of global trade risks on the outlook for rate rises.
“It basically means another rate hike in September and most likely another one after that in December,” said Rabobank Market economist Stefan Koopman.
“He couldn’t stay away obviously from the potential threats of protectionism, but he is still waiting to see how everything pans out so he wasn’t really concerned about it – and that is giving the market another boost.”
BofA Merrill Lynch’s latest fund manager survey showed a trade war remained the biggest threat cited by no less than 60 per cent of respondents.
For now, US companies seem to be profiting mightily from tax cuts as the earnings season shifts into high gear. Analysts now see second-quarter S&P 500 earnings growth of 21.2 per cent, up from 20.7 per cent on July 1.
Of the 39 companies in the index that have reported so far, 84.6 per cent have come in ahead of street expectations. The Dow ended yesterday up 0.22 per cent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.40 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.63 per cent.
“The S&P has finally broken to the upside through 2,800 out of the range that has confined it for most of this year, and this could now be the start of a grind higher in global equities over the next few weeks,” wrote analysts at JPMorgan in a note.
Next stop is the all-time top of 2,872 from January.
Pound in peril
Powell’s support for more rate hikes sent two-year Treasury yields to the highest in nearly a decade and lifted the dollar broadly.
Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was up at 95.251, after jumping 0.46 per cent overnight. It also climbed to its highest since January against the yen at 113.07.
The euro slipped further to US$1.1634, after weakening 0.4 per cent yesterday.
The pound suffered another bout of Brexit blues after British Prime Minister Theresa May only just cleared the latest parliamentary hurdle to her leaving plans.
Today’s edition of the Times reported May threatened rebel lawmakers in her own party with a general election if they defeated the bill.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned a no-deal Brexit would have “big” economic consequences and force a review of plans to raise interest rates.
Sterling was last huddled at US$1.3081, after sliding 0.9 per cent yesterday.
The rising US dollar coupled with the prospect of higher US interest rates spelled trouble for gold, which crashed through major chart support to hit a one-year low.
Spot gold was hovering at US$1,224.92 per ounce, having fallen to US$1,223.78. The steadily less-precious metal is down more than 5 per cent for the year.
Oil prices also eased after an industry group reported an unexpected increase in US crude inventories. Brent fell 70 cents to US$71.40 a barrel, while US crude was quoted down 54 cents at US$67.55 a barrel. — Reuters
Source: The Malay Mail Online