Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Picture: REUTERS
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Picture: REUTERS

London/Shanghai — World shares rose to record highs on Friday, buoyed by Chinese data that suggested the world’s second-biggest economy was stabilising.

Riskier assets were in demand worldwide as the Chinese growth data, along with easing trade tension with the US, sent the MSCI world equity index up 0.2% and further into record territory.

China’s economy grew 6% between October and December 2019. Anaemic domestic demand and the trade war with the US led to growth of 6.1% in 2019, the slowest in 29 years.

But the data reinforced recent signs of an improvement in Chinese business confidence as trade tension eased after Beijing and Washington signed an initial deal on Wednesday to defuse their tariff war.

Investors were turning their attention to what many see as improved prospects for growth across the world. European shares gained 0.7% in early trade, with Frankfurt, Paris and London indices up 0.5% to 0.7%. Wall Street futures were also pointing up.

The Chinese data fuelled a rise in the Chinese yuan, which touch a six-month high of 6.8660 to the dollar.

“Investors that were last year buying risky assets rather defensively — not really removing their hedging — right now are deploying cash,” said Olivier Marciot, a portfolio manager at Unigestion.

“A number of investors that were sitting on big piles of cash are starting reallocating. People are unloading cash positions into financial assets.”

In France, however, protests against planned pension reforms started to hit major retailers. Supermarket Casino slumped 12% after slashing its forecast for 2019 operating profit growth because of the damage from transport strikes in the fourth quarter.

Asian markets also rose after the Chinese data, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gaining 0.4%.

China’s own blue-chip index ended 0.1% higher, down from an earlier rise of as much as 0.7%. The index has rallied more than 8.5% since the beginning of December, fuelled by hopes for improved trade relations with the US.

Shares in Australia and South Korea both rose, with Japan’s Nikkei climbing to a 15-month high.

“This is all good news and positive for the China story,” said Daniel Gerard, senior multi-asset strategist at State Street Global Markets in Hong Kong.

Maintain momentum?

Still, analysts say global equities may find it difficult to maintain momentum from their recent rally as optimism over the trade truce gives way to uncertainty over the next steps in trade talks.

The phase 1 deal signed on Wednesday may defuse the 18-month trade row, but analysts said it was unlikely to ease broader friction between the two countries.

Most of the tariffs imposed during the dispute remain in place and a number of issues that sparked the conflict are still unresolved.

The challenge from here is how long we can maintain these improvements,” said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec in Sydney.

The dollar held steady, reaching eight-month highs against the yen before trimming its advance to 0.09% to ¥110.24. The index that tracks the dollar against a basket of six major rivals was flat at 97.302.

Encouraging data from the US on Thursday had boosted the dollar. Upbeat earnings from Morgan Stanley, rising US retail sales, a strong labour market and robust manufacturing data had helped to lift Wall Street to record highs.

Google’s parent, Alphabet, became the fourth US company to top a market value of more than $1-trillion. Its shares were up nearly 17% over phe last three months.


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