Stimulus measures by central banks push global markets up
Equity markets have welcomed the moves, but most of the cuts were already priced in and worries about a possible global slowdown still linger
London — World shares rose on Friday as stimulus measures by major central banks eased worries about growth, especially in Asian markets, while oil headed for its best week since January.
China cut a key lending rate for the second straight month on Friday, becoming the third major central bank to cut interest rates in recent days, after the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve.
Equity markets have welcomed the central bank moves, although most of the cuts were already priced in and worries about a possible global slowdown still linger.
Renewed tension in the Middle East after an air attack knocked out a Saudi Arabian oil supply hub last weekend, have also unnerved investors. Oil prices were on track for a weekly gain of 7.6%, their biggest weekly rise since the first week of 2019.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, gained 0.1%, on course for a fourth day of slim gains but still heading for a weekly loss.
The index was bolstered by Europe's Stoxx 600, which climbed 0.1% as investors bought defensive stocks, and a 0.6% gain for Asian equities outside Japan. Wall Street futures gauges suggested gains of about 0.2%.
US economic data had eased worries about slowdown in the world's largest economy. The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits rose less than expected and home resales increased to a 17-month high in August.
Some analysts were still cautious. Markets are waiting with bated breath for signs of where the economy is heading, said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets. “We are in a bit a sweet spot, with data starting to improve a little, and central banks on the other side remaining just about at the limit of what they can do,” he said.
“But there are significant tail risks — for me, quite simply, firms won't commit to large-scale investment decisions when there's no clarity over business conditions,” Hewson said.
Geopolitical risks range from the US-China trade war to Britain's efforts to leave the EU in October. An attack on Friday by a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen highlighted tensions in the Middle East.
Third weekly loss for dollar?
Investors were also braced for volatility on “quadruple witching day” — the quarterly expiration of equity options and futures. A spike in US overnight lending rates also sparked concerns of evaporating liquidity.
The rising rates, along with a quarter-point Fed rate cut, curbed demand for dollars. So did decisions by the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank to keep rates unchanged this week.
The dollar slipped 0.1% against an index of other currencies to 98.185, on track for its third straight weekly drop.
“Other central banks are not in easing mode as the Fed has been this week ... dampening some of the safe-haven appeal of the dollar,” Commerzbank forex analyst Thu Lan Nguyen.
Sterling reached a two-month high of $1.2566 against the dollar after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he thought Brussels could reach a deal with Britain to leave the EU. The pound was last up 0.3% at $1.2560.
Brent crude was at $64.88 a barrel, up 48 US cents or 0.8% at 8.14am GMT.