Asian stocks up as Biden signs stimulus; lower yields boost tech

imageEconomy2 hours ago (Mar 12, 2021 09:06)

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask talks on his mobile phone in front of a screen showing the Nikkei index in Tokyo

By Simon Jessop and Andrew Galbraith

LONDON/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Global shares were flat on Friday but within sight of a record high while oil edged lower as benchmark debt yields climbed, helping to curb the latest stimulus-driven rally.

Gains in Asian stock markets proved tough to match for most of European peers, after they hit a 1-year high in the prior session. U.S. stock futures also suggested a lower start for Wall Street later in the day.

The note of caution followed the signing of a $1.9 trillion U.S. stimulus bill into law on Thursday and a further dovish tilt from the European Central Bank that had prompted a retreat in bond yields and eased global concerns about rising inflation.

The burst of market optimism from those events had helped Asian shares rise – Japan’s Nikkei added 1.7% – but this faded out as Europe opened for business, with Britain’s FTSE 100 and the STOXX Europe 600 down around 0.5%.

That in turn weighed on the MSCI World Index, taking it into the red, down 0.1%, albeit less than 1.5% away from the record high hit last month.

Biden had signed the stimulus legislation ahead of a televised address in which he pledged aggressive action to speed vaccinations and move the country closer to normality by July 4.

The signing of the American Rescue Plan provided a further boost to market sentiment after the European Central Bank said it was ready to accelerate money-printing to keep a lid on borrowing costs, using its 1.85 trillion euro Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program more generously over the coming months to stop any unwarranted rise in debt financing costs.

Against that backdrop of super-loose monetary policy, analysts largely expect inflation to pick up as vaccine rollouts lead to a reopening, leading to worries that Biden’s stimulus package could overheat the economy.

U.S. 10-year Treasury yields rose again on Friday, back above 1.6% and on track to rise for the seventh straight week.

In currency markets, the dollar gained 0.56% against the yen and 0.4% against the euro and pound, although the latter was helped by news the economy had contracted less than expected in January.

The dollar index, meanwhile, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six major rivals, rose 0.4%.

Markets will likely remain volatile in the second quarter, particularly for the dollar, which was much stronger than expectations at the start of the year, said Cliff Zhao, chief strategist at China Construction Bank International.

“So I think the strong U.S. dollar may weigh on some liquidity conditions in the emerging markets,” he added.

Oil prices retreated from sharp gains as the dollar firmed, with U.S. crude dipping 0.3% to $65.8 a barrel. Brent crude lost 0.1% to $69.54 per barrel.

Spot gold prices fell 0.8% to $1,707.7 an ounce.

Global stocks, oil edge away from highs as stimulus rally ebbs

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