Screens at the London Stock Exchange in London, the UK. Picture: BLOOMBERG/LUKE MACGREGOR
Screens at the London Stock Exchange in London, the UK. Picture: BLOOMBERG/LUKE MACGREGOR

Hong Kong/London — A share rally that lifted stocks to record levels in recent days lost momentum on Friday, weighed down by renewed uncertainty over China’s property sector and as markets paused for breath ahead of US jobs data due later in the day.

The US dollar gained against sterling, which took a beating after the Bank of England (BoE) confounded markets by passing up a chance to raise interest rates on Thursday.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the world fell 0.07%, indicating a possible end to its four-day streak of record closing highs in a week in which central banks around the world refrained from hawkish surprises.

European indices opened flat after MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.23%, while Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.7% from a month high reached the day before, as manufacturers’ earnings disappointed.

US stocks futures pointed to confidence in the economic recovery expected to be shown by October payrolls data due later in the day, with S&P 500 e-minis up 0.05%.

The gains came even after the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday finally announced that it would begin tapering its massive asset purchase programme, though Fed chairperson Jerome Powell said he was in no rush to hike borrowing costs.

“Even though it transpired as expected, it is a significant milestone, the direction of travel is now clearly towards policy normalisation, though the Fed emphasised that tapering is not tightening,” said Stefan Hofer, chief investment strategist for LGT in Asia Pacific.

“It was really expert communication and very well handled.”

Hofer said US jobs data would remain in focus in the coming months as that would influence upcoming decisions from the Fed.

In Asia, Hong Kong had weighed on the regional index, falling 1.25% as index heavyweight and rate-sensitive HSBC fell 3.6% after the BoE’s dovish call and anxiety over property stocks.

Trading in shares of Chinese developer Kaisa Group was suspended a day after the company said a subsidiary had missed a payment on a wealth-management product, the latest sign of a deepening liquidity crisis in the Chinese property sector.

An index tracking Hong Kong-listed mainland Chinese developers slipped 2.8%, and an onshore China property index lost 2%.

More broadly, Shanghai shares lost 1% and Chinese blue chips slipped 0.5%.

Misleading signals

While investors were happy with the Fed’s communications, several felt that they had been misdirected by policymakers at the BoE.

On Friday, the pound was nursing its wounds near a month low having tumbled 1.36% the previous day after the central bank’s decision, which also roiled bonds in Britain and across Europe more broadly.

The dollar index last stood at 94.327, within sight of October’s 12-month highs, after the US currency also gained ground on the euro.

Germany’s 10-year bond yield looked set for its biggest weekly drop since June, down 15 basis points as central banks left policy rates unchanged.

Oil prices rose, staging a partial recovery after Opec+ producers rebuffed a US call to raise supply and instead maintained plans for a gradual return of output halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

US crude gained 1.24% to $80 a barrel, while Brent crude rose 1% to $81.39 a barrel, above month lows hit a day earlier after a report that Saudi Arabia’s output would soon surpass 10-million barrels per day for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Spot gold tacked on 0.3% as the falling yields provided support to the non-interest bearing asset.

Reuters

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