A tech shares bounce has carried European equities higher, following similar gains on Wall Street and Asia, and also helped by a small pullback in the dollar from a 17-month high.
With US markets closed for Thanksgiving, focus is trained on Europe where a surge in COVID-19 cases is raising the prospect of lockdowns going into the Christmas shopping season.
Those concerns had knocked the pan-European STOXX 600 index to a three-week low on Wednesday, but it was up almost half a per cent early on Thursday as a one per cent tech sector gain offset the eighth straight fall in travel and leisure stocks.
Marija Veitmane, global markets strategist at State Street Global Markets, said “we continue to treat every sell-off as the buy-the-dip opportunity”, adding that firms’ earnings were still robust and borrowing costs were still very low.
In the bond markets there was a small dip in German bund yields after Social Democrat and former finance minister Olaf Scholz struck a three-way coalition deal on Wednesday that will see him replace Angela Merkel at the helm of Europe’s largest economy.
It was the first dip in borrowing costs in three days. They have risen sharply this week as traders have ramped up bets that rising inflation will see the European Central Bank join the US Federal Reserve in hiking interest rates next year.
Dirk Schmacher, Head of European Macro Research at Natixis, pointed to the renewed lockdown in Austria and fast-rising case numbers in parts of Germany, as well the inflation predictions.
“The inflation debate, whether is it temporary or not, is still there,” he said.
Emerging markets saw some relative calm after a turbulent few days that has seen Turkey’s lira battered again, Russia and Ukraine tensions rise, and Mexico’s president stoke worries about central bank independence by installing a virtual unknown at the helm.
The lira shrugged off early losses to rise 0.5 per cent, extending Wednesday’s gains which came after a brutal 11-day, 24 per cent losing streak after Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan had backed more interest rate cuts.
Russia’s rouble moved away from recent four-month lows, back above 75 per dollar, while South Africa’s rand recovered from a one-year trough.
In Asia, the tech recovery that had kicked off on the Nasdaq on Wednesday lifted Japan’s Nikkei 0.8 per cent and saw Hong Kong’s tech index snap six sessions of losses, with Alibaba among the main winners.
Other share moves were more muted however. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded either side of flat all day, and was last 0.04 per cent higher.
Fook-Hien Yap, senior investment strategist at Standard Chartered Bank wealth management, said “when it comes to regional equities allocation, we’re watching the US dollar which is making new highs and that is a headwind for emerging market equities”.
The dollar is trading near its highest in almost five years versus the Japanese currency at 115.3 yen, and consolidating a near 18-month high against the euro which was a fraction higher at $1.1222.
Several US Federal Reserve policymakers have said in recent days they would be open to speeding up the tapering of the central bank’s bond-buying program if the high rate of inflation held, and move more quickly to raise interest rates, minutes of the Fed’s November 2-3 policy meeting showed.
“The market is now pricing in more than two hikes next year, but we think that is overly aggressive. We are only looking for about one hike next year,” Yap said.
These expectations have pushed US treasury yields higher, albeit inconsistently, with benchmark 10-year notes last yielding 1.6427 per cent, having risen as high as 1.6930 per cent on Wednesday.
US Treasuries will not trade on Thursday because of the Thanksgiving holiday. US stock markets will also be closed and will have a shortened session on Friday.
In other central bank news, the Bank of Korea raised its policy interest rate by 25 basis points on Thursday, as widely expected, as concern about rising household debt and inflation offset uncertainty around a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
Oil prices see-sawed meanwhile after a turbulent few days in which the United States said it would release millions of barrels of oil from strategic reserves in co-ordination with China, India, South Korea, Japan and Britain to try to cool oil prices after calls to OPEC+ to pump more went unheeded.
However, investors questioned the program’s effectiveness, leading to price gains.
Brent crude was last at $82 a barrel, down 0.3 per cent, while US crude was at $78.12, also down 0.3 per cent.
Spot gold edged 0.17 per cent higher to 1791 an ounce.