Dollar pause, China economy support pledge lift markets

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A broker looks at a graph on his computer screen on the dealing floor at ICAP in London. File/ Reuters

A dollar pullback from 20-year highs and Chinese authorities’ pledge to support economic growth offered respite to battered equity markets on Friday, though Wall Street remained poised to open lower after lacklustre earnings from retail giant Amazon.

World stocks remain on course for their worst month since March 2020 with a 5.8% loss, and while Asian and European stocks clawed their way higher, Nasdaq futures were down 1% by 1020 GMT and S&P 500 futures fell 0.7%.

Frankfurt-listed shares in Amazon fell 8% after it became the latest US corporate giant to blame rising costs for pressuring earnings.

April has been a dramatic month for global markets, with an unprecedented 5% dollar surge, driven by expectations of an aggressive U.S. rate hike cycle, as well as safe-haven flows from investors concerned about the Ukraine war and signs of economic slowdown.

The dollar’s index is set for its biggest monthly rise in seven years but eased 0.6% on Friday, snapping a four-day streak of gains against a basket of currencies.

That allowed the euro and the yen, which have hit five-year and 20-year lows respectively on Thursday, to claw back some losses

“Perhaps the dollar crescendo has peaked,” Colin Asher, senior economist at Mizuho, said, noting that aggressive interest rate hikes from the US Federal Reserve had already been priced in and there was “some two-way risk on whether the Fed actually makes good on what’s priced.”

Markets expect 150 basis points of rate hikes in the next three Fed meetings, far outpacing other global central banks.

Those bets were not derailed by Thursday data showing the US economy shrank in the first 2022 quarter, though the figures underscored the risks to growth posed by tighter monetary policy.

“If they tighten as much as is priced in, you will get no (U.S.) growth by the end of this year,” Asher added. MSCI’s global equity index rose 0.5% and a pan-European benchmark was 0.8% higher .

Markets were also buoyed by a Chinese state media report that a meeting of the Politburo, the Communist Party’s decision-making body, had pledged to protect economic growth and achieve economic targets for 2022.

The meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping, also hinted at measures to support property markets.

That lifted Hong Kong tech shares 10% on hopes Beijing might stop its regulatory clampdown on the sector. Gains were led by e-commerce players JD.com, Alibaba and Meituan which gained 12%-15%

Chinese blue chips rose 2.4%, while Shanghai shares gained 2.4%. However both indexes are down 5%-6% this month, as Beijing’s zero-COVID policy clouds growth prospects.

“Clearly, in response to unexpected shocks, the government has accelerated the policy easing measures that have already been approved in the (National People’s Congress) meeting,” JPMorgan analyst Haibin Zhu told clients.

The first-quarter earnings season so far has been healthy, with most companies beating estimates, but worries are growing that high input costs and a slowing global economy will crimp the outlook.

BofA analysts predicted that for European stocks “support from rising inflation and energy earnings upgrades is set to come to an end…the most important macro trend over the coming months will be a sharp loss of global growth momentum.

Companies also face headwinds from higher borrowing costs, with benchmark 10-year U.S. yields having risen as high as 2.981% on April 20. While it stood on Friday to 2.87%, it has now risen for five months straight.

European government bond yields rose too, as data showed euro zone inflation at a record high 7.5% in April, on the heels of above-forecast French and German prints

Money markets moved after the data to price 90 basis points of European Central Bank rate hikes by year-end and the euro rose 0.7% at $1.0568.

Elsewhere the yen, which swept past the key psychological 130 yen level on Thursday, clawed back 0.75% at 129.9. China’s offshore-traded yuan also firmed but was headed for its biggest monthly drop since 1994

“A lot of the dollar pricing has been done and a catch up is due for the laggards,” Mizuho’s Asher said.

US stock index futures fell on Friday as disappointing quarterly reports from Amazon and Apple pressured growth stocks, pushing the tech-heavy Nasdaq toward its worst month in two years.

Agencies



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