World stocks extend rally, rouble buckles under sanctions stress
World stocks were on course to extend a five-day run of record highs on Thursday, while bitcoin took a breather after its latest surge and Russia’s markets tumbled at the prospect of the harshest US sanctions in years.
For traders, it was hard keeping up. Europe’s STOXX 600 set a new all-time high as rising commodity stocks and some upbeat earnings offset the region’s COVID third wave and vaccination rollout worries.
The US dollar was trying to get off a four-week low and Wall Street futures were lifted by a surge in retail sales . Investors are increasingly convinced that US interest rates will stay low, whereas in Europe a deluge of debt issuance lifted German bond yields to four-week highs.
For those following markets elsewhere it was even more hectic. Turkey’s lira wobbled as the country’s central bank hinted that it will look to cut interest rates under a new governor after the last one was sacked after hiking rates last month.
The Russian rouble had already dropped as much as 2% and its bond markets took a clattering on reports the United States would announce sanctions later for alleged interference in US elections and malicious cyber activity.
They were set to target both individuals and entities and also include aggressive new measures targeting the country’s sovereign debt, according to US officials who spoke to Reuters.
“There has been a bit of whiplash for the rouble.” Saxo Bank’s head of FX strategy, John Hardy, said. “Earlier in the week it looked like the US was making overtures about a (Biden-Putin) summit and now it looks like they are going to slap on sanctions.”
Wall Street futures were pointing higher after a mixed finish on Wednesday despite gains for bulge-bracket banks like Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo as they got US earnings season off to a good start.
Fresh results ahead of the opening bell from Bank of America and BlackRock further bolstered hopes. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, reported a 16% jump in first-quarter profit and Bank of America rose 1.3% in premarket trading after its profits breezed past estimates.
The mood had been subdued in comparison in Asia overnight where the Nikkei ended little changed and Hong Kong and China’s main bourses finished 0.5%-0.6% in the red.
JPMorgan Asset Management said in a note it was trimming its overall emerging markets exposure once again, “mostly driven by a less sanguine outlook on EM Asia”.
“China has now recovered enough that policymakers can afford to be more conservative and worry more about containing debt and property market risks,” its global multi-asset strategist, Patrik Schowitz, wrote in a note.
The bank had already recommended selling EM currencies earlier in the week.
There were no such worries for the cryptocurrencies. Despite a bumpy IPO for crypto firm Coinbase, the world’s biggest and best-known bitcoin was just shy of its record high at $62,614, having now doubled in value this year.
Back in the bond markets, 10-year U.S. bond yields eased to 1.6165% in European trade, down from a 14-month peak of 1.776% reached in late March, reducing the dollar’s yield attraction.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Wednesday that the U.S. central bank would reduce its monthly bond purchases “well before” it raised interest rates.
Coinbase Global Inc shares jumped 11% in early trading on Thursday, a day after the cryptocurrency exchange went public in a high-profile debut on the Nasdaq that briefly valued it at more than $100 billion.
The debut, done through a direct listing where no shares are sold ahead of the opening, marked another milestone for bitcoin and other digital assets and came amid a surge in the value of cryptocurrencies that has lured a clutch of mainstream, top-tier firms.
“Risk sentiment is improving,” dragging on bond yields and the dollar, said Osamu Takashima, chief currency strategist at Citigroup Global Markets Japan.
Against the yen, the dollar slipped for a fourth day to 108.90. The euro was flat at $1.1977 as was sterling at $1.3776.
The Australian dollar hovered near three-week highs at $0.7716 after posting its biggest one-day percentage gain since Feb. 19 on Wednesday. Its New Zealand peer was upbeat at $0.7147, a level not seen since March 23.
In commodities, oil held near one-month highs after climbing nearly 5% on Wednesday as the International Energy Agency (IEA) said there were signs the massive overhang in global oil inventories was now being “worked off”.
Oil prices eased on Thursday but remained close to a one-month high that was driven by more positive demand forecasts from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and OPEC as economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brent crude was down 24 cents, or 0.4%, at $66.34 a barrel by 1220 GMT after touching its highest since March 18 at $66.94. US West Texas Intermediate futures fell 36 cents, or 0.6%, to $62.79. It had earlier reached $63.48, also the highest since March 18.