Global equities stay close to six-month high
Some brightening of the global industrial mood competes for attention with another dismal US retail sales report and the Brexit saga
London — World stocks hovered just under a six-month high on Tuesday as Brent neared $70 a barrel for the first time since November, Brexit fatigue sapped sterling and the dollar shows signs of gaining strength again.
Some brightening of the global industrial mood — at least in China and the US — was competing for attention with another dour US retail sales report, Britain’s broken Brexit plans and more central bank caution, this time from Australia.
Most European bourses posted slight gains early on helped by Britain’s exporter-heavy FTSE 100, which climbed as much as 0.5% as exporters cheered the fourth fall in sterling in the past five days.
That was because Britain was no nearer to resolving the chaos surrounding its exit from the EU bloc after parliament failed on Monday to find a majority of its own for any alternative to Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal.
May is due to hold hours of cabinet meetings with senior ministers on Tuesday to plan the government's next moves.
It meant investors stuck with UK gilts and safe-haven German bonds, negative yields notwithstanding, in the bond markets despite a pop back higher in key US yields in recent days.
“It does seem that British MPs want to avoid a no-deal Brexit by all means, but they are not voting for any of the alternatives and time is running out,” DZ Bank strategist Daniel Lenz said.
“So I think investors have to prepare for the possibility that no-deal Brexit is on its way in 10 days’ time; it's a little bit affecting yields this morning.”
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ended up 0.2% and at a seven-month high after also rallying more than 1% in the previous session and a jump from Wall Street overnight.
Chinese blue chips scored a 10-month high having also leapfrogged Colombia to the top of the leaderboard of world share markets, while Australian shares gained 0.4% after the Aussie dollar had dropped following a meeting of the country’s central bank.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) held interest rates steady and again highlighted the strength of employment, showing no immediate inclination to echo the outright dovish tone of some of its global peers.
Nevertheless it highlighted “downside risks for the global growth environment” and with national elections coming markets were betting the RBA will ultimately be forced to ease its rates, if only to stop the Aussie dollar from rising.
Oil on the boil
The other big shift taking place was in oil markets where prices hit fresh 2019 highs after a US official had said Washington was considering more sanctions on Iran and a key Venezuelan export terminal halted operations.
US crude futures traded at $61.82 a barrel, up 0.4% on the day while Brent futures were eyeing $70 a barrel for the first time since November at $69.19.
“China’s PMI [purchasing managers index] number was the most significant monthly increase since 2012, which should ease concerns around a potential threat to oil demand,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading and market strategy at SPI Asset Management.
Copper and gold both ticked down in the industrial and precious metals markets but in the digital world, Bitcoin suddenly came back to life.
It jumped 20% to touch $5,000, its highest since November. Crypto-analysts pointed to a large order in a thin market, though there was not any obvious trigger for than order immediately apparent.
The upward swing did though see Bitcoin break through its 200-day moving average for the first time in more than a year. The value of the unit plunged in 2018 as authorities globally tightened their regulation on the market.
In emerging markets, gains in MSCI’s EM share index were capped at 0.16%, after losses in countries such as Turkey and SA that were under pressure from political tension and weak local manufacturing.
The lira gave up 1.6% after the US halted delivery of equipment related to the F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey.
The disagreement is the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the US and Turkey, which were partly responsible for pushing the currency into a crisis 2018.
Also playing into the lira’s recent volatility have been heavy-handed clampdown on the international lira market. Local elections at the weekend saw President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party lose Istanbul and Ankara.