NEW YORK, March 16 — A gauge of global equity markets hit a five-month high yesterday on investor optimism over US-Chinese trade talks and hopes a new Brexit vote next week will prove successful, but the dollar headed to its biggest weekly loss since early December.
Hopes of Britain avoiding a chaotic exit from the European Union lifted stock indexes in Europe to highs last seen in October, while substantive progress on US-China trade talks -as reported by China’s state-run news agency — also buoyed sentiment.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s deputy warned lawmakers that unless they approved her Brexit divorce deal after two crushing defeats, Britain’s exit from the EU could face a long delay.
The dollar fell broadly, dragged lower by weak US economic data that sent the euro higher and helped gold prices to rebound from below US$1,300 (RM5,319.60) an ounce. The pound posted its biggest weekly gain in seven weeks, up more than 2 per cent for the week.
US manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state was weaker than expected this month, further evidence of a sharp slowdown in economic growth early in the first quarter.
The reports added to recent weak US economic data and underscored the Federal Reserve’s “patient” approach toward hiking interest rates, a trend that favours equities, said Rahul Shah, chief executive of Ideal Asset Management.
“Slower growth in the US enables the Fed to be more patient, so that’s why you’re seeing some dollar weakness,” Shah said, noting it makes lower-volatility stocks more appealing.
Higher US rates than elsewhere among major economies will draw capital from foreign markets and ultimately put upward pressure on the dollar, Shah added.
“It looks like the US will avoid a recession in 2019, which gives a little bit of a green light to take a little more risk,” he said.
MSCI’s all-country world index, a gauge of equity performance in 47 countries, gained 0.62 per cent while the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares closed up 0.73 per cent as all major bourses in Europe rose.
The rally pushed the S&P 500 to its best weekly gain since the end of November and the best weekly gain for the Nasdaq this year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 139.07 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 25,849.01. The S&P 500 gained 13.99 points, or 0.50 per cent, to 2,822.47 and the Nasdaq Composite added 57.62 points, or 0.76 per cent, to 7,688.53.
Fed officials are scheduled to meet next week to assess the economy and the course of US monetary policy. While no change in rates is expected, officials might take a more cautious view on the global economy after a volatile week in currency markets.
Sterling rose 0.35 per cent to US$1.3285 and the dollar index fell 0.2 per cent. The euro gained 0.13 per cent to US$1.1317 while the Japanese yen strengthened 0.18 per cent versus the greenback at 111.53 per dollar.
Benchmark 10-year and 2-year US Treasury yields fell to their lowest levels since early January, knocked down by the weak US economic data and the growing perception the Fed will stand pat on raising rates for the rest of the year.
The benchmark 10-year US Treasury note rose 10/32 in price to push yields down to 2.5925 per cent.
US crude futures briefly hit a 2019 high but later retreated along with benchmark Brent oil as worries about the global economy and robust US production put a brake on prices.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures settled down 9 cents at US$58.52 a barrel. Brent crude futures slid 7 cents to settle at US$66.16.
US gold futures settled 0.6 per cent higher at US$1,302.90 an ounce. — Reuters