Traders work at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, on August 7, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/RALPH ORLOWSKI
Traders work at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, on August 7, 2019. Picture: REUTERS/RALPH ORLOWSKI

London — European shares rose to fresh one-month highs and safe-haven assets such as gold and the yen fell after news of US-China talks set for early October raised hopes of a de-escalation in their trade war before it further damages the world economy.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.63% to touch its highest level since August 1. France’s CAC 40 index jumped 0.79% to hit a more than one-month high, outperforming major European bourses, aided by a 8% rise in shares of engine maker Safran after the company upped its full-year profit forecasts.

The rally followed gains in Asia, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan gaining as much as 1.08% to reach its highest since August 2. US stock futures reversed early losses and rose 0.5%.

The Chinese yuan jumped against the dollar in offshore trade, while safe-haven assets such as gold, the Swiss franc, and the yen fell.

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday that its trade team would consult with their US counterparts in mid-September in preparation for negotiations in early October, hinting at progress in reducing trade friction. Both sides agreed to take actual actions to create favourable conditions, the ministry added, without giving more details.

“The general market tone is driven by the announcement of the meeting of high-ranking officials between China and the US,” said François Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss wealth manager Prime Partners. “But this is not a sustained move into risk-on mode as nothing concrete has come out of it yet and investors need to wait to see whether the meeting will happen and what the results from it will be.”

Brexit news also a positive

Adding to the upbeat mood, a parliamentary vote in Britain put the brakes on the nation’s no-deal exit from the EU, Hong Kong withdrew a contentious extradition bill that sparked recent protests in the Chinese-ruled city, and weeks of political turmoil in Italy appeared to ease.

“Since yesterday, there has been limited downside in markets because of what happened in Hong Kong, but now the US-China talks are the story,” said Masayuki Kichikawa, chief macro-strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo. “It’s the same about Brexit, which means less downside risk.”

Any sign that Washington and Beijing are closer to scaling back or resolving their trade dispute would lift a significant burden from the global economy, but many analysts believe the two sides are dug in for a longer and costlier battle.

Weighing on sentiment was data that showed German industrial orders fell more than expected in July on poor demand from abroad, indicating manufacturers in Europe’s biggest economy continue to struggle in the third quarter.

In European stocks, Dassault Aviation joined Safran in a sharp rise thanks to upbeat earnings updates. Dassault rose 9%. News of a $5bn share buyback sent Equinor up 5.8%.

UK bank CYBG slumped 19% after saying it expected to increase its provision for legacy payment protection insurance by to £450m.

In currency markets, the pound lost some of its overnight gains on concern that an election is still pending, although Britain might have averted leaving the EU next month without a transition deal. Law makers are hoping to pass a bill that seeks to stop Britain from leaving the EU on October 31 with no agreement.

Against the dollar, the pound fell 0.3% to $1.2211, after jumping 1.4% on Wednesday. Against the offshore yuan, the dollar fell as much as 0.2% to 7.1340 yuan. The dollar rose 0.17% to ¥106.60  and gained 0.3% to 0.9839 Swiss franc.

The 10-year German bund rose more than one basis point to -0.66%, away from the record lows of -0.743% touched on Tuesday.

Seizing on recent doubts about whether a European Central Bank (ECB) stimulus package next week can match expectations, other top-rated eurozone yields also increased, although the rises were small.

Having spiraled lower in the past week after agreement was reached on a new coalition government in Rome, Italian yields steadied near their record lows. The 10-year Italian yield was unchanged at 0.826%, close to the record low of 0.803%. The 30-year Italian bond yields were also little moved in early trade.

Spot gold fell 0.6% to $1542.38 an ounce. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was 0.6% down at $55.91 a barrel.