Global equities rally as more U.S. stimulus looms, silver slides

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global stock markets surged for a second day on Tuesday, spurred by increased optimism about more U.S. stimulus and the economic recovery, while retail investors retreated from GameStop and fleeting interest in silver, causing their prices to tumble.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective mask, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, stands in front of an electric board showing Nikkei index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The party for the Reddit-inspired trading frenzy that pushed GameStop’s stock up five-fold in five days last week appeared over as its shares plunged 60% in heavy trade to close at $90.00, less than one-fifth of an all-time peak on Friday.

Silver prices also fell on Tuesday, sliding 8.5% to $26.54, after exchange operator CME Group Inc raised maintenance margins on its COMEX 5000 Silver Futures contract by 17.9% to their highest since October 2020.

CME’s move on silver took the air out of GameStop too, with short interest declining to 53% of the stock’s available shares to trade, from 140%, said Tom Hayes, founder and chairman of hedge fund Great Hill Capital LLC in New York.

“Everyone’s rushing for the same narrow exit and trying to get off margin, and you have a lot of weak sisters that are coming out of the stock,” Hayes said. “The squeeze is over.”

Equities rallied as investors saw improved prospects for President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid bill. The U.S. Senate voted to open debate on a budget resolution, starting a process that would allow Democrats to pass Biden’s package without Republican support.

Expectations for Alphabet’s Google and earnings after the bell were high and lifting investor sentiment, Hayes said. “Very few people want to be short going into that type of earnings report,” he said.

Google closed up 1.38% and Amazon added 1.11%. The two stocks were among the top boosts to the S&P 500; 97% of technology companies have beaten analysts’ earnings estimates, IBES data from Refinitiv shows.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.57%, the S&P 500 gained 1.39% and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.56%. Advancing shares outnumbered declining ones by almost 3:1 on both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

Positive momentum overnight in Asia carried through to Europe, with the pan-European STOXX 600 closing up 1.29%.

Medical device maker Coloplast and Sweden’s Indutrade were the top gainers on STOXX 600 on beating quarterly earnings.

Initial European Union estimates showed the euro zone economy contracted less than expected in the fourth quarter but was headed for another, probably steeper decline, in the first quarter of 2021.

MSCI’s world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was up 1.34% after posting its strongest day in three months on Monday. Its emerging markets index rose 1.52%.

MSCI’s gauge of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan rose 1.4%. China’s benchmark CSI300 Index gained 1.5%, helped by easing concerns about tight liquidity and declining cases of new coronavirus infections. Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 1%.

The dollar rose to two-month highs against the euro on a perceived widening disparity between the strength of U.S. and European economic recoveries from the coronavirus pandemic.

A sell-off in the euro after coronavirus lockdowns choked consumer spending in Germany and short-covering in over-crowded dollar-selling positions also strengthened the greenback.

The euro was last down 0.17% at $1.2038. The Japanese yen weakened 0.08% at 105.02 per dollar.

(Graphic: EURUSD and CESI: )

The Australian dollar pared gains after the country’s central bank said it would extend its quantitative easing program to buy an additional $100 billion of bonds. The Aussie last stood at $0.7602, off the day’s high of $0.7662.

Core euro zone government bond yields edged up, with the benchmark German 10-year Bund yield around two basis points higher at -0.484%.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield rose about 0.2 basis points to 1.1014%.

U.S. gold futures settled down 1.6% at $1,833.40 an ounce.

Oil prices rose 2% or more to their highest in nearly 12 months after major producers showed they were reining in output roughly in line with their commitments.

Brent crude futures rose $1.11 to settle at $57.46 a barrel. U.S. crude futures settled up $1.21 at $54.76 a barrel.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Dan Grebler and David Gregorio