Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

London — World markets rallied on Thursday after the US Federal Reserve confirmed plans to start reeling in stimulus, Norway became the first rich economy to raise rates since Covid-19 struck and China Evergrande shares leapt ahead of a crucial debt payment.

European stocks were up 1% in early trading as they pushed for a third straight day of gains, and Norway’s krone rose 0.7% after the country’s landmark rate hike, while the US dollar was groggy.

Bank of England and Turkish central bank policy decisions are also due later. The former is slowly inching towards hiking UK rates whereas the latter remains under heavy political pressure to cut despite double-digit Turkish inflation.

Asia’s nerves were also calmed after China injected fresh cash into its financial system ahead of an $83.5m Evergrande bond coupon deadline that could be the start of one of the world’s largest corporate defaults in history.

“Equity markets are continuing their rally into a wall of worry as you would expect in an advanced carry trade,” said Sebastian Galy at Nordea Investment Fund.

He said negative news was being quickly ignored at the moment, or even viewed as positive as it could lead to more government or central bank stimulus.

The “bothersome reality” though is that the global economy is slowing down faster than was assumed, most likely led by China. “The edges of reality will come again to the fore, just not now and not for long,” Galy added.

Evergrande’s shares looked set to close up around 17% in Hong Kong. They had been up more than 30% at one point after its chairman said on Wednesday it had “resolved” an interest payment on one of its local market 'onshore' bonds.

Investors were still waiting to hear though what it would do about a payment on one of its international market bonds. It technically has a 30-day grace period to make the payment, but missing it will be seen as a sign a default is coming.

“It's not the debt that worries me, it is who then builds all the apartments?” said Ewan Markson-Brown, lead manager for Asia equity strategies at Crux Asset Management, considering that Evergrande has 1,300 real-estate projects running in more than 280 cities.

Kerry Craig, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management added that the situation was still far from resolved.

“You'll see some of the immediate fears of a huge collapse and contagion start to recede, but it will still be an issue … because the property market and construction is such a massive part of the Chinese economy.”

Taper, no tantrum

As well as the rise in Evergrande’s shares, Chinese blue chips gained 0.7%, Australia’s benchmark rose 1%, and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.6% after returning from a three-day break to catch up with global falls earlier in the week. Japan equity markets were shut for a holiday.

Overnight, US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell also downplayed the global effects of the Evergrande saga and said it was more relevant to the Chinese economy.

In another key event for markets, the Fed said it would probably begin reducing its monthly bond purchases as soon as November and signalled that interest-rate increases may follow more quickly than expected.

The three major US stock indices had closed up 1%, not far off where they were before the Fed announcement, and US treasury yields were little changed at 1.3023% after see-sawing overnight.

The dollar sagged in European trading, after the Fed chair’s remarks had seen it hit a month-high of 93.526 against a basket of currencies, particularly gaining against the euro and yen.

Europe’s turnaround, though, saw the euro up at $1.1716, a month high while sterling also rose ahead of a Bank of England meeting, which is expected to strike a hawkish tone.

In commodity markets, US crude rose 0.1% to $72.33 a barrel, while Brent crude gained 0.2% to $76.23 per barrel. Spot gold lost 0.3% to trade at $1,763.32/oz.

Reuters

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