January 31, 2019 / 12:50 AM / 15 days ago

World stocks post best January on record, yields fall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global equity markets mostly rose on Thursday, fueled by upbeat Facebook earnings and the Federal Reserve’s pledge to be patient in raising borrowing costs further, while U.S. bond yields fell on indications of weaker-than-expected inflation.

FILE PHOTO: The seal for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is displayed in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

The benchmark S&P 500 posted its biggest monthly percentage gain, at 7.89 percent, since October 2015 as U.S. equities continued to surge from their late 2018 swoon. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 9.74 percent in its best month since October 2011.

The Dow edged lower on a downbeat report by DowDuPont Inc, but MSCI’s gauge of global stock performance rose as it posted its best January on record. DowDuPont shares closed down 9.2 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 15.19 points, or 0.06 percent, to 24,999.67. The S&P 500 gained 23.05 points, or 0.86 percent, to 2,704.1 and the Nasdaq Composite added 98.66 points, or 1.37 percent, to 7,281.74.

U.S. crude prices settled lower as uncertainty about Sino-U.S. trade talks overtook the bullish news about production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia, and the Fed’s dovish stance.

President Donald Trump said he wanted a “very big” trade deal with China, but he signaled there could be delays if talks fail to meet his goals of opening the Chinese economy broadly to U.S. industry and agriculture.

The Fed’s dovish message on monetary policy eased concerns that tighter financial conditions could crimp growth and helped spur stocks along with solid corporate results, such as earnings from Facebook, which topped analysts’ estimates.

Facebook shares rose 10.82 percent.

The Fed’s stance was “stunning” but Chairman Jerome Powell may be trying to calm the market so that he can hike rates later this year in a classic “rope-a-dope” tactic, said Mike Terwilliger, a portfolio manager at Resource America Inc.

Economic data remains weak and a future downturn suggest the Fed should hike rates this year because it won’t be able to when the U.S. electoral campaign is in full swing in 2020, he said.

“The need to reload the gun is not going away and the politics suggest he should be as well,” Terwilliger said.

Amazon.com Inc forecast first-quarter sales below Wall Street estimates, even as sales for the holiday quarter hit a record high, rising 20 percent. Shares of the company fell 1.1 percent to $1,700 in trading after the bell.

MSCI’s index of stocks worldwide rose 0.92 percent and its emerging market index gained 1.28 percent.

European shares ended a choppy session flat as disappointing economic data, including a technical recession in Italy, sapped an early boost provided by the Fed’s dovish tone.

German retail sales fell at the fastest rate in 11 years, British car production posted its biggest drop since 2009 and euro zone growth was the slowest in four years.

The STOXX 600 ended the day up 0.04 percent but gained 6.1 percent in January, its strongest month since October 2015.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares closed up 0.23 percent, with oil heavyweights Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total among top gainers.

The dollar index rose 0.23 percent, with the euro down 0.28 percent to $1.1445. The Japanese yen firmed 0.12 percent versus the greenback at 108.92 per dollar.

Treasury yields fell after the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, a measure of regional manufacturing activity, fell to its lowest in two years.

The Employment Cost Index, the broadest measure of U.S. labor costs, rose 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter after an unrevised 0.8 percent gain the previous quarter, the Labor Department said.

The data continued a pattern of low inflation.

“What you’ve seen the last couple days with the market is the Street’s reaction to recognition that cheap money is going to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Brian Ward, chief executive of Trimont Real Estate Advisors in Atlanta.

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians are reflected on an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan December 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 17/32 in price to push its yield down to 2.6328 percent.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 44 cents to settle at $53.79 per barrel. Brent crude oil futures rose 24 cents to settle at $61.89.

U.S. gold futures settled up 0.7 percent to $1,319.70 an ounce.

Reporting by Herbert Lash in New York, additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and James Dalgleish

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