Global shares near record levels as vaccines inject hope

Global shares near record levels as vaccines inject hope
Global shares near record levels as vaccines inject hope

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Global shares approached record highs on Friday while the dollar and oil topped recent milestones, as progress in vaccine distribution and US stimulus hopes prompted bets on further normalization in the global economy.

An index of the world’s major 50 markets, MSCI ACWI, rose 0.21 percent to 668.1, coming within reach of a record high of 670.82 touched about two weeks ago. It was the fifth consecutive day of gains.

The STOXX index of Europe’s 600 largest stocks was up 0.3 percent at 410.8, though slower vaccination rollouts in continental Europe and disappointing industrial data from Germany tempered optimism.

On the corporate front, Chinese short-video app company Kuaishou — a major rival to TikTok — nearly tripled on its market debut following a $5.4-billion initial public offering that was the biggest for an Internet firm since Uber’s May 2019 listing.

US President Joe Biden’s drive to enact a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill gained momentum on Friday as the US Senate narrowly approved a budget blueprint allowing Democrats to push the legislation through Congress in coming weeks, with or without Republican support.

“Following from a positive US trading session on Thursday supported by decent earnings numbers, it looks as though Democrats will go on their own on stimulus and not try to compromise with Republicans, so you might get something closer to the $1.9 trillion rather than a compromise,” said Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec in London.

It seems markets are now trying to trade on economic normalization based on progress in vaccination.

Arihiro Nagata, GM of global investment at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank

Longer-term US Treasury yields rose in anticipation of the large pandemic relief bill from Washington as well as on rising inflation expectations.

The benchmark 10-year yield stood at 1.130 percent, having risen to a three-week high of 1.162 percent the previous day. The 30-year bond yielded 1.922 percent, near its 10-1/2-month high of 1.951 percent touched on Thursday.

Bond yields rose in Europe as well, with Germany’s 30-year government bond yield climbing back into positive territory for the first time since September.

Germany’s DAX index was flat after data showed orders for German-made goods fell more than expected in December.

MSCI’s gauge of Asian shares outside Japan rose 0.4 percent while Japan’s Nikkei rallied 1.5 percent.

A market gauge of future US inflation was at its highest since October 2018. A similar gauge for the euro zone hit its highest since May 2019.

While it was a strong day for conventional assets, the leading names in the recent US retail-share trading fad fared worse.

The “Reddit rally” stocks GameStop and AMC Entertainment plunged further after two weeks of wild swings fueled by the WallStreetBets Reddit forum.

Deep-pocketed investors instead last week pumped a record $4.2 billion into big technology stocks, BofA’s flow data showed, taking advantage of the slight pullback on Wall Street while retail traders plowed into the Reddit favorites.

The dollar headed for its best weekly gain in three months, confounding dollar bears and tracing a trading pattern known as the “Dollar Smile,” which in previous years has preceded major US economic rebounds and currency surges.

The US dollar index stood near a two-month high, having risen 1.1 percent so far this week, on course for its biggest weekly increase since late October.

“It seems markets are now trying to trade on economic normalization based on progress in vaccination,” said Arihiro Nagata, general manager of global investment at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.

“The fact that the only currencies that are doing better than the dollar over the past two days are the British pound and the Israeli shekel, the two countries that are going further ahead in vaccination, seems to support that.”

The British pound stood at $1.3696, not far from a two-and-a-half-year peak of $1.3759 hit late last month.

The shekel has risen over the past two days, reversing its decline since mid-January after the Bank of Israel intervened to stem its rise.

Gold edged up 0.7 percent to over $1,805 per ounce, but was still set for its worst weekly dip in four after hitting a two-month low of $1,785.10 on Thursday.v

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