LONDON – World stocks racked up record highs on Thursday and the dollar fell as investors bet major stimulus from new US President Joe Biden and unswerving global central bank support would cushion the coronavirus’s economic damage.
Europe’s traders hoisted the FTSE and DAX 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent higher and pushed up the euro again as the European Central Bank’s first policy meeting of the year saw no change to its supportive policies.
With Asian stocks reaching new highs overnight and Wall Street pointing higher again, MSCI’s global index covering nearly 50 countries added 0.3 percent to its 76 percent rally since the COVID crash last March.
Republicans in the US Congress have indicated they are willing to work with Biden on his administration’s top priority, a US$1.9 trillion US fiscal-stimulus plan. Some remain opposed to the price tag, but the final amount is still expected to be worth at least 5 percent of US gross domestic product.
“Biden has got the benefit of the doubt as far as markets are concerned and has had for some time,” said Shamik Dhar, chief economist at BNY Mellon investment management.
“The benefit of higher stimulus is viewed as outweighing any negative impacts of higher corporate taxes and regulation. And I think they are right to think that. Monetary policy is also likely to remain loose,” he said.
Bond yields barely budged, with debt markets now focusing on the ECB’s meeting, as the bank kept its key “deposit” interest rate at -0.5 percent as widely expected, after boosting its 1.85 trillion-euro emergency bond- buying programme by 500 billion euros (US$606.30 billion) in December.
Since then, many European countries, including France and Germany, have tightened coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Vaccination programmes have also been slow to ramp up, adding to the doubts over the speed of economic recovery.
ECB President Christine Lagarde was due to hold a news conference at 1330 GMT.
“We don’t expect many fireworks from the European Central Bank meeting,” ING strategists said, foreseeing “a fairly uneventful day for the euro,” which was up 0.3 percent at US$1.2145 but well within its recent US$1.20 to US$1.23 range.
In the currency markets the dollar was off 0.15 percent against the yen at 103.37 amid the expectations of a Biden stimulus push and after the Bank of Japan left its policies unchanged overnight.
The broader dollar index was down 0.17 percent to 90.254, while benchmark US 10-year Treasury notes yielded 1.0785 percent, down from a US close of 1.09 percent on Wednesday.
Wall Street was set to open riding its latest tech rally.
Netflix shares had surged nearly 17 percent on Wednesday after it would no longer need to borrow billions of dollars to finance its TV shows and movies.
Google parent Alphabet had jumped 5.3 percent too and along with Facebook, Apple, Amazon.com and Netflix, the so-called FAANGs group added US$262 billion, taking their market cap to US$6.15 trillion.
There was weekly jobs data to look forward to but most of the focus was on Biden’s policies around the key issues such as the pandemic response, the economy and trade tensions that dominated Donald Trump’s term over the last four years.
In commodity markets, oil prices eased on an unexpected rise in US crude stockpiles, though hopes for an economic revival kept losses in check. US West Texas Intermediate crude dipped 0.24 percent to US$53.18 a barrel. Brent crude fell 0.16 percent to US$55.99 per barrel.
Industrial metals such as copper, nickel and iron ore all rose while spot gold was a shade lower at US$1,866 per ounce.