World stocks edge higher on upbeat Chinese data
China’s GDP grows 6.4% and its industrial output surged in March, but European shares are flat; Juventus FC’s shares plummet after losing to Ajax
London/Sydney — World stocks edged higher after a raft of Chinese data beat expectations on Wednesday, and though benchmark bond yields and the Aussie dollar did the same, Europe struggled to join in.
In early European trades, the regional Euro Stoxx 600 and German DAX 30 were mostly unchanged while London’s FTSE was a shade weaker as near 5% drop in iron ore prices hit its heavyweight miners.
Moves in Asian share markets had been mostly modest too, in part because they had already rallied hard since the start of the year.
Japan’s Nikkei closed up 0.25% after hitting a five-month peak while the Shanghai Composite made 0.3% to score its highest close since March 21 2018 after jumping 2.4% on Tuesday.
Investors have been counting on better news from China and were not disappointed with first-quarter economic growth pipping forecasts at 6.4%.
Importantly, industrial output surged 8.5% in March from a year earlier, the fastest pace since July 2014 and well above forecasts of a 5.9% increase. Retail sales also pleased with a rise of 8.7%.
Investors reacted by buying the Australian dollar, often a liquid proxy for China plays, which pushed up 0.3% to a two-month top at $0.7206.
Allianz Global Investors strategist and portfolio manager Neil Dwane said the data had good enough to allay fears China’s economy was collapsing although the rest of the year remained in question. “Beijing will now be in a wait and see mode to gauge whether it has done enough,” Dwane said. “To be bullish [on stocks] from here you would have to believe in a pretty strong global recovery in the second half ... We are a bit more ho-hum.”
Still, the fact that there were at some green shoots appearing in world economy pushed benchmark government bond yields higher. German bund yields hit a four-week high, albeit at 0.1% they are still barely above zero.
In currency markets, the dollar finally managed to top resistance on the yen at ¥112.13 to reach its highest since December at ¥112.16. Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar was a tad weaker at 96.908 but still within the 95.00 to 97.70 range that has held for the past six months.
The euro edged up a touch to $1.1315, recovering from losses driven by a Reuters report that several European Central Bank (ECB) policy makers think the bank’s economic projections are too optimistic.
One currency on the move was the New Zealand dollar which sank as far as $0.6668 after annual consumer price inflation came in well below expectations at just 1.5% for the first quarter.
The improved Chinese data gave it a helping hand back up to $0.6744 later but yields on two-year Kiwi bonds have already dived nine basis points to 1.48% as investors wagered the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) would have to cut rates.
In commodity markets, the general improvement in risk sentiment saw spot gold slip to its lowest for the year so far. It was last up 0.2% at $1,279.25 an ounce.
Oil prices were buoyed again as fighting in Libya and falling Venezuelan and Iranian exports raised concerns over tightening global supply. US crude was last up 48c at $64.53 a barrel, while Brent crude futures rose 34c to $72.06.
The big mover, however, was China’s Dalian iron ore futures, which plunged after Brazilian miner Vale said it was preparing to resume operations at its huge Brucutu mine in the coming days. The mine, with annual capacity of 30-million tonnes, has remained shut since early February after a tailings dam burst in late January, killing hundreds of people.
The most-traded iron ore futures for September delivery on the Dalian commodity exchange sank as much as 4.7 and closed down 3.8% at 621 yuan ($92.86).
There was soccer drama too. Italian soccer giant Juventus’s shares had to be suspended as they dropped more than 20% after being knocked out of Europe’s Champions League by Dutch club Ajax. Ajax’s shares celebrated with an 8.5% jump.