LONDON: World stocks took a well-earned rest near record highs on Wednesday, as an International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast of the strongest global growth since the 1970s this year and steady bond and FX markets kept risk appetite buoyant.
While rising global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and geopolitical tensions between China and Taiwan and between Russia and Ukraine ensured it was by no means a fairytale, markets certainly had a Goldilocks feel again.
Europe’s STOXX 600 perched just below the first record high it had hit in over a year on Tuesday. MSCI’s 50-country world index was grinding out a sixth day of gains and Wall Street futures were pointing higher too.
In the bond markets, there was little sign that the benchmark government yields that drive global borrowing costs were gearing up to shoot higher again. The dollar was sitting quietly at a two-week low.
The IMF raised its global growth forecast to 6 percent this year from 5.5 percent on Tuesday, reflecting a rapidly brightening outlook for the US economy.
If realized, that would be the fastest the world economy has grown since 1976, albeit after the steepest annual downturn of the post-war era last year when the pandemic brought commerce to a near standstill at times. “Even with high uncertainty about the path of this pandemic, a way out of this health economic crisis is increasingly visible,” IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said.
Overnight, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares had started on a firm footing, going as high as 208.46 points, a level last seen on March 18.
However, it succumbed to selling pressure and ended flat as China’s blue-chip CSI300 index dipped 1 percent and Hong Kong eased 0.9 percent.
Other Asian markets managed to stay positive. Japan’s Nikkei closed higher; Australian shares rose 0.6 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI added 0.3 percent.
Wall Street futures pointed to a 0.1 percent rise for the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial and Nasdaq. The S&P 500 and the Dow had hit record levels on Monday, driven by a stronger-than-expected jobs report last Friday and data showing a dramatic rebound in US services industry figures.
The upcoming earnings season is expected to show S&P profit growth of 24.2 percent from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data, and investors will be watching to see whether corporate results further confirm recent positive economic data.
All eyes will also be on minutes of the US Federal Reserve’s March policy meeting when they are published later. Ten-year and five-year Treasury yields were down at 1.6455 percent and 0.874 percent respectively in Europe from as high as 1.776 percent on the 10-year on March 30.
The five-year Treasury yield especially is seen as a major barometer of the faith investors have in the Fed’s message that it does not expect to raise US interest rates until 2024. Europe’s bond yields also eased, with southern European debt markets stabilizing after a selloff the previous session as traded braced for a 50-year bond from Italy.
The European Central Bank, meanwhile, will release monthly data on its conventional asset purchases and a bi-monthly breakdown of its PEPP pandemic emergency bond purchases which it has vowed to increase to keep borrowing costs low.
The dollar circled a two-week low of 92.246 against a basket of world currencies.
The euro was flat at $1.1871, sterling was weaker at $1.3795. The Japanese yen was a touch lower at 109.92.
In commodities, Brent crude futures were nudging lower at $62.67 a barrel. US crude was up at $59.51 and both gold and copper were off at $1,736.4 an ounce and 8,980 a ton respectively.