Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

London — World stocks rose for a second consecutive week on Friday as investors prepared for an expected run of strong earnings in the US, although fears about the US-China trade conflict kept gains in check and pushed the dollar higher.

Expectations of a bumper US earnings season and news that China’s overall global export growth beat expectations led European shares up on Friday with industrials and technology sending the pan-European Stoxx 600 up 0.2%.

Markets appeared broadly risk-friendly as a weakening safe-haven yen helped lift Japan’s Nikkei stock index 2%. That followed the S&P500 hitting four-month highs on Wall Street overnight.

Yet fears about the effect of an escalating US-China trade war continue to cloud the outlook.

Chinese trade data showed its trade surplus with the US swelling to a record in June, and some fear that could further inflame a trade dispute with Washington.

"The record surplus with the US will inevitably get top billing … China’s exporters have been front-loading exports to beat the imposition of tariffs, implying a relatively sharp drop in coming months," ADM Investor Services market strategist Mark Otswald said.

With investors braced for the effects of tit-for-tat tariffs, one of China’s main indices edged lower and China’s yuan headed for its fifth straight week of losses.

While China has vowed to retaliate to the proposed new US tariffs — 10% on $200bn worth of Chinese goods — the lack of a specific response to date has sparked global relief.

On Friday, S&P500 e-mini futures rose to a five-month high on expectations of solid earnings growth among US firms despite the trade war concern.

Renewed talks?

Offering some reassurance to investors spooked by trade war fears, US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that the US and China could reopen trade talks if Beijing were serious about structural reforms of its business practices.

"Some have suggested that Chinese officials are easing back their rhetoric with the intention of going back to the negotiation table, perhaps in light of increased concerns about economic impacts," ANZ analysts wrote in a note on Friday.

The options available to Beijing include boycotting American goods, selling off US Treasury holdings or sharply devaluing the yuan.

In commodity markets, oil prices have had a wild week with both the main benchmarks suffering heavy losses as traders focused on the return of Libyan oil to the market.

Oil prices fell on Friday, with Brent crude dropping 35 US cents to $74.10 a barrel and heading for a weekly fall of nearly 4%. A warning on spare capacity by the International Energy Agency (IEA) helped Brent recoup some losses on Thursday.

Copper eased about 0.5% on Friday and was poised for a fifth straight weekly fall, its longest decline since 2015, on concerns about weaker demand in face of the US-China trade dispute.

The dollar, which has been a safe haven amid global uncertainty over trade, touched ¥112.775, its highest level in six months, boosted by expectations of higher US inflation.

The greenback was the strongest major currency this week and the dollar index, which tracks the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.4% at 95.9223. The euro was 0.4% weaker at $1.1621.

Sterling fell 0.5% to a one-and-half-week low on Friday as a resurgent dollar and comments by US President Donald Trump that a possible US-British trade deal was probably dead sapped demand for the pound.

There was plenty of pain for emerging market stocks and currencies, including the biggest weekly loss for Turkey’s lira since the height of the financial crisis a decade ago.

The lira has lost 22% of its value against dollar in 2018, reflecting investor concern about monetary policy and economic management by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who appointed his son-in-law as finance minister this week.

Reuters

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