LONDON, Aug 16 — European stocks crept sluggishly higher today as investors sought safety in defensive names, while risk aversion likewise lifted the safe haven dollar following weak Chinese and US economic data that stoked fears of a global recession.
The dollar briefly hit a one-week high as investors piled back in having ditched the greenback last week following lower-then-expected US inflation data, while the Aussie, euro and Chinese yuan buckled.
Europe’s benchmark STOXX index climbed 0.3 per cent to hit a 10-week high and mark a fifth straight session of gains, led by mining companies as London-listed BHP Group reported strong results.
But S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures dipped, indicating a likely weaker direction for US markets when they open later.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.03 per cent after gains earlier in the day. MSCI’s benchmark index has gained 5 per cent from the year’s lows but is still down 15 per cent this year.
Just as investors were taking heart from a four-week rally in global equities that pushed markets to their highest in more than three months, Monday’s weak Chinese activity data spanning industrial output and retail sales hit sentiment.
Also, US single-family homebuilders’ confidence and New York state factory activity fell in August to their lowest since near the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, a further sign the world’s largest economy is softening as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.
The picture was mixed across Asian bourses today, with Tokyo and Taiwan benchmarks flat, while South Korean stocks put on 0.2 per cent.
Chinese stocks gave up early gains as growth concerns remained after data showed economic activity and credit expansion slowed sharply in July, prompting the central bank to unexpectedly cut interest rates.
The blue-chip CSI 300 index slipped 0.2 per cent after dipping yesterday.
Bond markets, meanwhile, continued their tussle between fears over inflation and recession, which are particularly acute in the euro zone.
Germany’s 10-year yield, the benchmark for the euro zone, was up 3 basis points (bps) to 0.932 per cent, holding below a two-week high of 1.025 per cent touched last Friday.
Investors’ latest move to the safety of the dollar came after the raft of weak global economic indicators.
The US economy contracted in the first and second quarters, amplifying a debate over whether the country is, or will soon be, in recession.
Today, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, rose as high as 106.87, its strongest since Aug. 8.
The euro, the most heavily weighted currency in the dollar index, dropped 0.28 per cent to 1.01305.
The Australian and New Zealand dollars were put on the defensive by frail global data.
Brent crude futures fell 1 per cent to US$94.11 as the bleak economic data from top crude buyer China renewed concerns of a global recession, and the market monitored talks on a reviving deal that could allow more Iranian oil exports.
WTI crude futures shed 0.98 per cent to US$88.52 a barrel.
Spot gold dipped slightly to US$1,775.6 per ounce as the stronger dollar dented bullion’s appeal and investors watched for signs of future rate hikes by the federal reserve. — Reuters