STOCKS STAND FIRM
Global stocks held firm near record highs on Friday as receding inflation fears in the United States pushed down bond yields and lifted Wall Street, though softness in Chinese shares capped gains in Asia.
MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks set a record high earlier in the Asian session and last stood almost flat.
Japan’s Topix gained 0.6% and Australian stocks hovered near a more than one-year top, while South Korea’s Kospi touched the highest intraday level since mid-February.
Chinese shares were an outlier, with the CSI 300 sliding 1.5%, pushing down MSCI’s ex-Japan Asia index by 0.6%, as robust domestic inflation data raised worries over policy tightening.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields held close to Thursday’s two-week trough near 1.6%, which had lifted U.S. tech shares and powered the S&P 500 to a record close.
Yields had surged to the highest since January of last year at 1.776% at the end of March as a string of strong U.S. economic data stoked fears of a spike in inflation that could force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner than policymakers had so far signalled.
However, an unexpected rise in the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits, coupled with Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s reiteration on Thursday that inflation was not a worry, helped calm those jitters.
“Markets appear to have taken some comfort that they may have overdone the concerns around inflation, and therefore around rising interest rates,” said Michael McCarthy, chief markets strategist at CMC Markets.
“At the moment, there’s no doubt that sentiment is wildly positive, and I’m not going to stand in the way of this train.”
Powell signalled at an International Monetary Fund event that the central bank is nowhere near reducing support for the U.S. economy, saying that while economic reopening could result in higher prices temporarily, it will not constitute inflation.
Aided by the pullback in yields, traders piled into megacap tech stocks such as Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc, which were the main drivers of the S&P 500.
The S&P 500 gained 0.42% to a record high, while the Nasdaq Composite added 1.03%. Emini futures were mostly flat.
In China, official data Friday showed factory gate prices rose at their fastest annual pace since July 2018 in March, adding to investors’ worries that authorities may start tightening policy.
“Basically the market thinks there’s more possibility that the People’s Bank of China will be tightening rather than easing,” said Masahiko Loo, a Tokyo-based portfolio manager at AllianceBernstein.
“It’s very different from the stance of the Fed or the Bank of Japan, where they are maintaining an easing bias.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six rivals, held near Thursday’s two-week low below 92, weighed down by lower Treasury yields.
Spot gold eased to around $1,750 an ounce after jumping to a more than one-month peak of $1,758.45 on Thursday.
Crude oil prices were little changed as Wall Street’s rally and the soft dollar offset concern over a big jump in U.S. gasoline stocks.
U.S. crude was largely unchanged at $59.57 a barrel, while Brent eased slightly to $63.04 a barrel.
Reporting by Kevin Buckland in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Chibuike Oguh in New York; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Kim Coghill