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World shares attempt bounce after worst week in two years

A visitor is seen as market prices are reflected in a glass window at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2018. — Reuters picA visitor is seen as market prices are reflected in a glass window at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2018. — Reuters picLONDON, Feb 12 — World shares staggered higher today after suffering their worst week in two years, attempting to brush off fresh rises in global bond yields while equity futures pointed to a firmer Wall Street session ahead.

A higher Friday close for New York stocks following a week of “vol” induced selling, lifted markets in Asia and Europe, helping MSCI’s all-country index 0.5 per cent while European shares were 1.5 per cent higher.

Wall Street’s equity volatility gauge, the VIX — the spike in which had kicked off the ructions — was at 25.5 per cent shortly after opening, versus Friday’s 29 per cent close.

However, that is well above its long-term average around 11 per cent, showing the jitters are not completely extinguished.

The continued move-up in bond yields is reinforcing that view. Ten-year Treasury yields hit new four-year highs around 2.90 per cent, while German yields, the benchmark for Europe, hovered just below 0.8 per cent, the 2-1/2-year high touched last week.

“People are nervous after the shock of the past week but it doesn’t feel like there is a crisis around the corner. But never say never,” said Grant Lewis, head of research at Daiwa Capital Markets in London.

Given solid world economic growth, Lewis said the falls were more likely a wobble than a full-blown correction to the nine-year long equity bull market as bond investors priced in an improved economic outlook.

“Even at 2.90 per cent, 10-year Treasury yields are still low,” he added.

Data from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed equity funds had cut long positions in S&P 500 futures, reducing exposure to a market which has fallen 8 per cent from Jan. 26 record highs.

However, futures rose one per cent on Monday.

Inflation, dollar

While equity markets attempt to recover, the question is whether they can withstand another sharp move up in bond yields — something will be put to the test by economic data this week.

In China, banks extended a record amount of new yuan loans in January, blowing past expectations, which is likely to support growth not only in China but underpin liquidity globally.

Analysts forecast US consumer price inflation, to be released on Wednesday, to have slowed to 1.9 per cent in January from a year earlier, while the core measure is seen ticking down to 1.7 per cent.

Given it was fears of faster inflation — and more aggressive rate rises — that triggered the global rout in the first place, an above-forecast figure could well spark a fresh selloff in stocks and bonds.

Nor have central bankers exhibited much concern over the equity rout, indicating they intend to push on with plans to tighten monetary policy this year.

On currency markets, traders had cut net short positions in the dollar last week, CFTC data showed, but speculators returned today to short the dollar, pushing it 0.3 per cent lower versus a basket of currencies.

Societe Generale analysts said the risk sentiment bounce was being countered by the steeper US Treasury curve but the soft dollar showed the former had the upper hand at present.

The gap between short- and long-dated US yields rose to the widest in more than three months — the so-called curve steepening indicating higher inflation expectations and economic activity.

“If a better risk mood just encourages 10-year Treasuries to spike up through 2.9 per cent, it seems unlikely that we will see equities bounce too far and by the same token, it’s too early to sell dollars,” Societe Generale warned clients.

The euro rose around 0.3 per cent, after losing 1.8 per cent last week, while the yen eased off five-month highs hit last week amid the flight to safe-havens.

Sterling meanwhile inched higher, off the three-week lows hit last week but stayed fragile, given signs of a shaky economy and a rocky Brexit process.

Today’s more cheerful market mood also lifted commodities, with Brent crude futures rising one per cent after last week’s 9 per cent fall, copper bouncing off two-month lows and gold up 0.4 per cent and trading well off five-week lows. — Reuters

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