Global stocks resume ascent on earnings hopes, euro gets lift from ECB



TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks resumed their ascent on Friday, supported by U.S. earnings optimism and a rise in oil prices while the euro edged higher as the European Central Bank signalled an end to its massive stimulus.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent, following two straight sessions of decline. Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.1 percent.

Wall Street’s three major stock indexes hit record highs with earnings for S&P 500 companies expected to have increased by 11.8 percent in the recently-ended quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

MSCI’s broadest gauge of the world’s stock markets also hit a record high on Thursday, having risen in seven of the eight business days so far this year for a total increase of 3.3 percent.

The energy sector led the gains as oil prices rose to three-year highs while interest rate sensitive-sectors, such as utilities and real estate companies, underperformed.

U.S. Treasury yields fell on Thursday after China disputed a media report that its government officials had recommended the country slow or halt its purchases of U.S. bonds.

China’s currency regulator dismissed the report but said it is diversifying its foreign exchange reserves in order to safeguard their value.

The 10-year Treasuries yield stood at 2.550 percent, off Wednesday’s ten-month high of 2.597 percent.

On the other hand, the benchmark German 10-year Bunds yield hit a five-month high of 0.532 percent after accounts of the ECB’s December meeting showed it thinks it should revisit its communication stance in early 2018.

With the euro zone seeing its best growth in a decade, the ECB should gradually shift its stance to avoid a more disruptive move later and look at a broader revision of its policy guidance to reduce the focus on bond purchases and raise the emphasis on interest rates, they showed.

“I would imagine the ECB is dying to give it a try to end negative interest rates after September. If that doesn’t go down well in markets, the bank will modify its message but it should want to at least test the water,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

The euro rose back above $1.2 and last traded at $1.2040, near its three-month high of $1.2089 touched last week.

On the other hand, the dollar was broadly weak after U.S. wholesale price dipped in December from November, reinforcing investors’ expectations of a tame inflation.

The U.S. currency slipped to a six-week low of 111.05 yen on Thursday and last stood at 111.21 yen.

Bitcoin flirted with this year’s low, having fallen 11.1 percent on Thursday after the government in South Korea, one of a major source of digital currency demand, unveiled plans to ban cryptocurrency trading.

On the Bitstamp Exchange, it traded at $13,000, down 1.6 percent in early Asian Friday trade. It has lost 6 percent so far this year.

Oil prices retreated from big gains the previous day but still traded near three-year highs on signs of tightening supply in the United States.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures changed hands at $63.55, down 0.4 percent on the day.

Brent crude futures settled 6 cents higher at $69.26 a barrel on Thursday, after hitting $70.05 a barrel during the session, its highest level since November 2014. Brent’s settlement still represents a three-year closing high.

Brent has gained 5 percent since the beginning of the year, picking up from its late-year surge.


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