U.S.-China trade hopes extend equity surge; central banks supportive

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LONDON (Reuters) – World stocks hit a four-month high on Wednesday on hopes of progress in trade talks between the United States and China, with a dovish backdrop at major central banks also helping push markets back into the black.

People stand and sit outside the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square, London, Britain August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

U.S. President Donald Trump said negotiations with China were going well and suggested he was open to extending the deadline to complete them beyond March 1.

Up to now, it was assumed U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports would rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if no trade deal was reached by then.

Asian shares soared on Trump’s comment, and European stock indices also strengthened, pushing the MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, to a four-month high.

Deutsche Bank’s chief strategist Jim Reid said the newsflow was encouraging, despite signs that more progress was needed.

“The overall feeling is that it is one step forward, three-quarters of a step back at the moment. So positive momentum but still fragile,” he said in a note.

While hopes for a trade deal between the world’s two largest economy are seen as the primary driver for world stocks, dovish central bank messages are also playing a part.

New York Fed President John Williams on Tuesday said he was comfortable with the level U.S. interest rates were at and that he saw no need to raise them again unless economic growth or inflation shifted to an unexpectedly higher gear.

Investors are also looking to the release on Wednesday of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January meeting, at which policymakers effectively signaled no further rate hikes and possible tweaks to its balance sheet normalization.

In Europe, expectations have been growing that the European Central Bank will restart a program to provide long-term cheap loans to banks to boost a faltering economy, while the Bank of Japan has flagged its readiness to ease further.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose as much as 1.1 percent to mark its highest levels since Oct. 2.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained as much as 1.3 percent to six-month highs, while Korea’s Kospi and Taiwan’s index recovered to levels last seen in early October. Japan’s Nikkei added 0.6 percent to two-month highs.

On currency markets, the dollar steadied against a basket of major currencies, after suffering its biggest one-day loss of the month on Tuesday. It had also recorded big slides against the euro and sterling.

The greenback strengthened 0.2 percent against the yen after Japan recorded its biggest annual drop in exports in January for more than two years, and on recent dovish Bank of Japan signals.

Markets were also focused on newsflow on the Brexit front, with sterling holding most of its gains following a 1 percent surge on Tuesday as British Prime Minister Theresa May headed to Brussels to try push negotiations forward.

FILE PHOTO: A visitor is seen as market prices are reflected in a glass window at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The yuan rose as much as 0.6 percent against the dollar, its biggest intra-day gain in more than a month, after Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the United States was seeking to secure a pledge from China that it will not devalue the currency as part of a trade deal.

Oil prices hovered near 2019 highs, supported by OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, but further gains were capped by soaring U.S. production and expectations of an economic slowdown.

International Brent crude futures stood at $66.30 per barrel, having hit a three-month high of $66.83 per barrel earlier this week.

Reporting by Abhinav Ramnarayan; Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano and Tomo Uetake in TOKYO; editing by John Stonestreet



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