Stock markets rally, oil prices drop on easing Middle East fears

AFP , Monday 22 Apr 2024

Major stock markets mostly rallied Monday and oil prices retreated as Middle East worries subsided and traders looked ahead to the release of key US inflation data and corporate earnings.

Oil prices
The easing of tensions in the Middle East has seen oil prices slip. AFP


London led the way in Europe, with its FTSE 100 index up 1.6 percent to above 8,000 points around the halfway stage, closing in on a record high.

The benchmark index benefited also from a weaker pound as the Bank of England is seen cutting interest rates in the coming months as UK inflation cools.

Wall Street's main indices opened higher, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq rising 0.7 percent after tumbling on Friday partly due to a poor response to Netflix earnings.

In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng stocks index closed with a gain of 1.8 percent.

Oil prices fell, with the international benchmark, Brent, dropping 1.5 percent to $85.97 per barrel.

"The week starts with a relief rally in equities following a calm weekend on the geopolitical scene," noted Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

With Iran downplaying the recently reported Israeli attack on the country, which came days after a drone and missile strike on Israel by Tehran, tensions between the regional foes appeared to have cooled.

While the situation remains tense, the lack of escalation over the weekend provided traders with an opportunity to pick up equities after losses last week.

Investors will turn their attention this week to earnings updates from more US giants, including Google parent Alphabet, Tesla, and Microsoft.

They are also setting their sights on US economic data.

"What this week brings will depend largely on what the earnings and economic calendars bring -- and they will be bringing a lot," said analyst Patrick O'Hare.

US first-quarter growth figures are due out on Thursday.

The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation, will be released on Friday.

The reading could play a major role in the central bank's decision-making on US interest rates and comes after successive months of above-forecast consumer price index figures.

Recent US inflation data has dented hopes for a cut in June, and traders have scaled back their outlook for how many the Fed will make this year.

"If core PCE exceeds expectations, this will mean elevated interest rates are likely for longer in the US," said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at City Index and

Traders have cut the odds of a June rate cut from 70 percent last month to 15 percent now, he said, adding that they now see a 66 percent probability of a cut for September.

"This means that traders are now looking beyond the summer for the first rate cut," Razaqzada said.

Elsewhere Monday, bitcoin firmed following the long-anticipated "halving'".

Friday saw the halving of reward for operating Bitcoin, a much-anticipated step designed to limit production and boost the world's biggest cryptocurrency.

The dollar, meanwhile, rose across the board, and gold came off the boil.

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