World stocks have risen, lifted by strong share price gains for tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook and growing hopes of a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula after a ground-breaking meeting of North and South Korean leaders.
European shares were set to end the week with a flourish too with a pan-European index set to post its fifth week of gains in a row, rivalling last September’s winning streak, with the tech sector strongly outperforming.
The latest gains are being partly spurred by forecast-beating first quarter earnings from two of the so-called FANG tech stocks – some of the world’s largest and most influential companies by market capitalisation – which has boosted sentiment on the technology sector worldwide.
Amazon.com Inc shares jumped more than 6 per cent in after-market trading while Facebook surged 9.1 per cent on Thursday, calming worries about the fallout from its use of consumer data.
‘Macro-economic data has been soft in a number of key economies, so it is reassuring that amidst those concerns we are still seeing strong earnings numbers coming through from big ticket corporates such as Amazon and Facebook,’ said Investec economist Victoria Clarke.
‘This is a good gauge of the broad drivers of sentiment particularly when there are those concerns about demand holding up in the face of weak economic data,’ Clarke added.
European tech shares rose 0.75 per cent to the highest in more than five weeks, buoyed also by gains in local IT and chipmaking firms such as Capgemini, ASML and Infineon.
In Britain, there was bad news on the growth front, with data showing the economy slowed much more sharply than expected in the first three months of 2018.
That has slashed market expectations of an interest rate increase by the Bank of England next month and sent sterling plunging to the lowest since March 9 against the dollar
The data indicated ‘that the (UK) slowdown is more structural’, Mizuho’s head of hedge fund sales, Neil Jones, said.
However, sterling’s slide helped UK shares on the FTSE index to rise nearly half a per cent with gains led by multi-national earners which earn a big chunk of their revenues overseas but report profits in pounds.
The weak data adds to concerns that economic growth across the developed world is running out of steam, especially after lacklustre euro zone figures earlier in the week and data on Friday showing French economic growth slowed more than expected in the first quarter.
‘The euro zone’s economy doesn’t seem to have the type of momentum it had last year,’ said Satoshi Okagawa, senior global markets analyst for Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Singapore.
Earlier, though, Asian markets revelled in the glow of the summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Political leaders and investors hope this would ease tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme and pave the way for the North and South to end their decades-long conflict.
That helped Seoul shares briefly rise more than 1 per cent to a one-month high and the won firmed. MSCI’s index of Asian shares outside Japan rallied 0.8 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei share average rose 0.7 per cent to two-month peaks.
The US dollar meanwhile hit its highest since January 12 against a basket of currencies, having benefited from the recent run in US Treasury yields – 10-year yields hit 3 per cent this week for the first time since January 2014.
With a weekly gain of more than 1.5 per cent, the greenback is set for its best weekly performance since late-November 2016.
‘US rates didn’t matter for the dollar, now they do and our positioning metrics suggest there is further scope for short dollar positions to be unwound,’ said Michael Sneyd, global head of FX strategy at BNP Paribas in London.