European and US stocks charge higher

A trader puts on his jacket on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the building prepares to close indefinitely due to the coronavirus disease outbreak in New York, US, March 20, 2020. — Reuters pic
A trader puts on his jacket on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the building prepares to close indefinitely due to the coronavirus disease outbreak in New York, US, March 20, 2020. — Reuters pic

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LONDON, April 15 — European and US stock markets rose today, supported by buoyant economic data and a strong start to the US earnings season, while traders shrugged off news of weaker growth expectations in Europe’s biggest economy Germany.

A drop in new weekly US jobless claims to 576,000 — the lowest since the pandemic began — helped bolster sentiment. 

And a 9.8 per cent jump in retail spending in March thanks to stimulus cheques arriving to US households did not spook those worried about the extra cash causing a surge in inflation.

“US stocks are broadly higher in early action, with the bullish theme being fostered by a flood of earnings and economic data,” said analysts at Charles Schwab brokerage.

The Dow rose 0.6 per cent at the starting bell, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also pushing higher.

The brokerage Bank of America, PepsiCo, UnitedHealth Group, and Citigroup all beat earnings forecasts.

That followed the opening of the US earnings season on Wednesday, when JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo each notched earnings at least four times higher than the same three-month period of 2020.

“It’s nice to not only see good earnings, but optimistic views going forward, which is very important this particular reporting season,” said JJ Kinahan at TD Ameritrade.

That may have helped keep markets pushing higher. Share prices often rise on expectations and then fall when profits are announced. But the optimistic views of the top bankers may have helped reassure that the recovery will take hold.

Meanwhile, the rise in retail spending would have been expected to inflame concerns about inflation, concerns which have seen rates on US government bonds rise and stocks suffer.

But that didn’t happen on Thursday, which analysts said may have been due to the exceptional nature of US consumers receiving stimulus cheques and the success of Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell in reassuring investors that a spurt in inflation will be just temporary.

In Europe, which is struggling with renewed lockdowns and slow vaccine rollouts amid rising Covid cases, leading research institutes said German economic growth will be weaker than expected in 2021. 

Germany’s gross domestic product will expand by 3.7 per cent this year, according to five economic think tanks, revising down more optimistic predictions by one percentage point.

In afternoon trading, Frankfurt’s DAX 30 was 0.3 per cent higher.

Paris was up 0.4 per cent and London climbed 0.4 per cent.

Traders are also keeping an eye on developments in the pandemic crisis as infections in some countries surge and vaccine programmes have been dealt a blow by blood clot concerns over the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca jabs.

Key figures around 1330 GMT

London — FTSE 100: UP 0.6 per cent at 6,977.77 points

Paris — CAC 40: UP 0.4 per cent at 6,235.09

Frankfurt — DAX 30: UP 0.3 per cent at 15,252.70

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 per cent at 3,991.55

New York — Dow: UP 0.6 per cent at 33,919.29

Tokyo — Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 per cent at 29,642.69 (close)

Hong Kong — Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.4 per cent at 28,793.14 (close)

Shanghai — Composite: DOWN 0.5 per cent at 3,398.99 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.1966 from US$1.1980 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.3789 from US$1.3778

Euro/pound: UP at 86.94 pence from 86.92 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.73 yen from 108.94 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.2 per cent at US$66.47 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.4 per cent at US$62.93 per barrel — AFP

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