Global stocks hit record after US inflation data

Asian stocks overnight gained support on China trade data that showed exports in dollar terms rose more that 30 per cent in March from a year earlier, short of expectations. Imports jumped 38 per cent, the fastest pace in four years, suggesting a post-pandemic recovery in Chinese spending. — Picture by Reuters
Asian stocks overnight gained support on China trade data that showed exports in dollar terms rose more that 30 per cent in March from a year earlier, short of expectations. Imports jumped 38 per cent, the fastest pace in four years, suggesting a post-pandemic recovery in Chinese spending. — Picture by Reuters

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NEW YORK, April 14 — A gauge of global equity markets rose to record highs yesterday, led by surging technology-related stocks, as Treasury bond yields eased after US consumer price data for March showed the pace of inflation was not rising wildly.

The consumer price index rose 0.6 per cent, the biggest increase since August 2012, as rising vaccinations and fiscal stimulus unleashed pent-up demand. But the data is unlikely to change Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s view that higher inflation in coming months will be transitory.

“We’re just going to have a temporary flame-up in prices but there will not be any structural inflation that’s here to stay,” said Carlo Franchini, head of institutional clients at Banca Ifigest SpA in Milan. “Fed comments continue to be conciliatory.”

The dollar fell and gold prices, a traditional inflation hedge, rebounded from their lowest in more than a week. Equity markets took the data in stride, especially technology-heavy indexes whose stocks can be affected by rising debt costs.

MSCI’s gauge of equity performance in 50 countries advanced 0.34 per cent to an all-time peak, led by gains in Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc, the top three holdings of the benchmark index.

Apple rose 2.4 per cent, Microsoft 1.0 per cent and Amazon 0.6 per cent.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 gained 0.33 per cent as it also set intra-day and record closing highs, while the Nasdaq Composite added 1.05 per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2 per cent.

Johnson & Johnson’s shares slid 1.34 per cent after US federal health agencies recommended pausing the rollout of its Covid-19 vaccine for at least a few days, raising fears of the recovery’s setback after six women developed rare blood clots.

In Europe, the pan-regional STOXX 600 index closed up 0.12 per cent, with luxury and other consumer stocks leading gains, followed by technology stocks.

Asian stocks overnight gained support on China trade data that showed exports in dollar terms rose more that 30 per cent in March from a year earlier, short of expectations. Imports jumped 38 per cent, the fastest pace in four years, suggesting a post-pandemic recovery in Chinese spending.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gave up most of its gains and closed up 0.1 per cent. China’s blue-chip index fell 0.2 per cent.

Treasury yields are being influenced by increased foreign demand while low bond yields and the cost of debt will buoy higher-risk equity assets, said Steven Oh, global head of credit and fixed income at PineBridge Investments.

“The Treasury market reaction (to CPI) was effectively a collective yawn in continuing the trend that in the near term, market yields are largely unrelated to economic data,” Oh said.

“Inflation and economic data matters in determining Treasury yields, but it’s been and will be a secondary factor for now.”

Benchmark 10-year notes fell 5.6 basis points to yield 1.6198 per cent, well below a 14-month high of 1.776 per cent hit March 30. The yield curve flattened further after the last of this week’s auctions — US$24 billion (RM99.2 billion) of 30-year bonds — was met with solid demand, a result analysts at Jefferies called “fabulous.”

The dollar briefly spiked on the CPI data before reversing course and dipping to three-week lows after surging to multi-month peaks in March as markets anticipated fiscal stimulus would spur faster US economic growth and higher inflation.

The dollar index fell 0.29 per cent, with the euro up 0.33 per cent to US$1.1948. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.31 per cent versus the greenback at 109.05 per dollar.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said on Monday the US economy could see a significant rebound this year due to looser money and fiscal policy but the job market still faced weakness.

With inflation still below the Fed’s 2 per cent target rate, the current “highly accommodative” monetary policy remained appropriate, he said.

Bitcoin hit a record of US$63,769, extending its 2021 rally to new heights a day before the listing of Coinbase shares in the United States.

US gold futures settled up 0.9 per cent at US$1,747.6 an ounce

Oil prices rose on the strong Chinese import data. But the rally was capped by concerns that pauses on the J&J vaccine could delay the economic recovery and limit oil demand growth.

Brent crude futures rose 39 cents to settle at US$63.67 a barrel. US crude futures settled up 48 cents at US$60.18 a barrel. — Reuters

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