Stocks rise ahead of US data and earnings, London hits fresh record

AFP , Tuesday 23 Apr 2024

Asian markets mostly rose Tuesday and London hit a fresh record, with hopes for earnings this week from tech titans helping to offset worries about the Federal Reserve's interest rate plans ahead of the release of key US growth and inflation data.

A board displays market activity on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on September 16,
FILE PHOTO: A board displays market activity on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on September 16, 2022, in New York City. AFP

 

The apparent easing of Iran-Israel tensions after the rivals launched missile attacks against each other continued to weigh on oil prices, while the yen inched slightly higher as Japan again warned authorities had the room to intervene to support the currency.

Investors are a little more upbeat after last week's struggles fuelled by dimming hopes for US interest rate cuts and concerns the Middle East crisis could escalate into a regional war.

Focus is now on the corporate reports from Wall Street titans including Amazon, Apple, Netflix and General Motors, with observers saying that traders are keen to see strong earnings as well as positive outlooks.

However, there is a worry that equities could take a hit if the results disappoint, with the surge in markets in recent months partly helped by bets on firms providing bumper returns, even as hopes for a Fed rate cut fade.

Still, all three main indexes in New York chalked up much-needed gains.

And most of Asia followed suit, extending their advances from Monday.

Hong Kong piled on more than one per cent, while Tokyo, Sydney, Singapore, Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta were also enjoying buying action. Shanghai, Seoul and Wellington struggled.

London rose again, having closed at a record high Monday with the Bank of England tipped to slash interest rates soon thanks to cooling inflation.

Paris and Frankfurt were also both up.

This week's key data out of Washington will provide a fresh idea about the central bank's plans, with updates on US gross domestic product and monetary policymakers' preferred gauge of inflation the standouts.

The personal consumption expenditures index, due Friday, comes after three months of above-forecast readings on consumer prices that have seen investors lowering their outlook for rate cuts this year.

They now see two at best, compared with six forecasts at the start of 2024.

Decision-makers have also moved to push back against market expectations for how many reductions were in the pipeline.

"The debate surrounding the Federal Reserve's stance on rate cuts persists, especially after Chair Jerome Powell and other policymakers adopted a more hawkish tone last week in response to persistent inflationary pressures," said SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes.

"These releases will be crucial in determining whether the Fed maintains its current policy stance, keeping rates higher for longer."

Oil prices edged up slightly, having retreated Monday on relief that Tehran had not retaliated to an Israeli strike at the end of last week that fanned worries of a potentially catastrophic escalation of the Middle East crisis.

The commodity is still up about 14 per cent this year owing to output cuts by OPEC and other key producers and concerns about the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Crude has unwound the Israel-Iran risk premium but could slip into a holding pattern," said Vandana Hari at Vanda Insights.

"It's hard to see a correction from current levels unless there's a breakthrough on the Gaza front."

The yen ticked higher after Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki again warned against the sharp moves in currency markets, which have often been blamed on speculation.

"I think it's fair to assume that the environment for taking appropriate action on forex is in place, though I won't say what the action is," he said.

The Bank of Japan's policy decision will be pored over for an idea about its plans for rates after hiking last month for the first time in 17 years.

 

Key figures around 0810 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 per cent at 37,552.16 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.9 per cent at 16,828.93 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.7 per cent at 3,021.98 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 per cent at 8,058.68

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 154.75 yen from 154.84 yen on Monday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0677 from $1.0656

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2363 from $1.2354

Euro/pound: UP at 86.36 pence from 86.24 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.6 per cent at $82.37 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.6 per cent at $87.54 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.7 per cent at 38,239.98 (close)

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