Stocks shrug off perkier euro zone, U.S. set for muted start

Stocks shrug off perkier euro zone, U.S. set for muted start

21 Apr    Finance News, PMN Business, REU

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LONDON — Global stocks languished on Friday, barely responding to a jump in euro zone business activity as investors waited for data on the U.S. economy ahead of next month’s Federal Reserve meeting.

U.S. stock index futures were little changed as shares on Wall Street test the top of a range that has held for months.

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S&P Global’s flash purchasing managers’ indexes (PMIs) for the U.S. are due at 1345 GMT and are expected to show that momentum in U.S. business activity cooled further in April, just as Fed officials remain set to raise rates at their May 2-3 meeting.

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The unfolding earnings season is also a focus, with Procter & Gamble Co raising its full-year sales forecast.

The dollar was headed for its first weekly gain in nearly two months as investors raised their bets on the Fed increasing borrowing costs next month.

Oil prices were on track for hefty weekly losses as economic and interest rate uncertainty weighed.

The MSCI all country stock index was down 0.1%, though it remains about 8% firmer for the year.

The S&P Global composite purchasing managers’ index for the euro zone jumped to an 11-month high of 54.4 in April, well above the 50 mark separating growth and contraction, and boosting the chances of a rate hike by the European Central Bank.

PMI data showed Germany and France, motors of the EU economy, recovering, though there is a widening gap between weakening manufacturing and recovering services. British retail sales fell by a greater than expected 0.9% in March from February.

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“Like last month, the (euro zone PMI) survey indicates that price pressures are easing. In manufacturing, cost pressures are falling quickly on the back of improving supply chain problems and weakening new orders,” ING bank said. “Service sector inflationary pressures are also coming down, but at a slower pace due to rising wages. For the European Central Bank, this remains the largest concern in tackling inflation right now.”

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Euro zone bond yields were steady, but the STOXX index of 600 European companies remained slightly weaker after the PMI data, though still on track for the fifth week of gains.

“The main narrative is that recession is coming but it’s taking its time,” said Kevin Thozet, investment committee member at Carmignac.

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Recession is likely in the United States during the end of the third quarter or during the fourth quarter, while consensus on the outlook in Europe is overly pessimistic in the short term, and too optimistic on the longer term, Thozet said.

Although China is recovering, it’s not expected to have the “traction capacity” to pull the rest of the world along with it that it had in previous economic cycles, Thozet added.

Electric vehicle maker Tesla, which dropped nearly 10% on Thursday as its margins were squeezed, raised some U.S. prices a bit on its website even though it has been making cuts lately. Its shares were up 1.5% ahead of the opening bell on Friday.

ASIA SHARES MIXED

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1% and was down about 1.7% for the week so far, its worst performance since bank stability worries gripped markets in the middle of March.

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Japan’s Nikkei touched an eight-month high and was on track for a second consecutive weekly gain. Shares of Rakuten Bank jumped as much as 40% on their debut, as investors snapped up the downsized listing.

Japan’s consumer inflation held steady above the central bank’s target in March, data showed on Friday, keeping alive market bets that the Bank of Japan, which meets next week, could phase out its policy of enormous bond buying to pin down government bond yields.

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“It looks like market participants have taken positions in preparation for policy changes ahead of the meeting,” said Nomura strategist Naka Matsuzawa, though he expects no change.

U.S. Treasuries have also rallied, with two-year yields extending Thursday’s drop as investors turn to safety. Yields fall when prices rise. Two-year yields eased to 4.1199%.

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The euro was little changed, while the yen was trading at 133.81 against the dollar, down slightly.

Brent futures for June delivery were 0.3% firmer at $81.34 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) for June delivery gained 0.2% to $77.59 a barrel.

Elsewhere the mood dragged on bitcoin, which is back below $30,000. The fall in yields has gold, which pays no income, straddling $2,000 an ounce, down 0.8% on the day.

In commodity markets traders are closely watching for producers’ and buyers’ response to Chilean plans to nationalize the lithium industry. Chile holds the world’s largest reserves. Shares in U.S. listed Chilean lithium miner SQM tumbled 7.6%.

(Reporting by Huw Jones, additional reporting by Tom Westbrook, Editing by Sonali Paul, Susan Fenton and Chizu Nomiyama)

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