World shares gain for eighth day in a row; Wall Street set for stronger open

LONDON (Reuters) – World shares rose for the eighth day in a row, reaching record highs, while market sentiment was improved by the prospect of U.S. fiscal stimulus and vaccine rollouts, before a speech by U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was up 0.3% at 1116 GMT, having touched new peaks earlier in the session.

Overnight, MSCI’s ex-Japan Asian shares index also broke above its previous high, in January.

European indexes strengthened after a shaky start, with the STOXX 600 up 0.3% and London’s FTSE 100 up 0.4% .

The recent gains stem from a combination of the market pricing in increased U.S. fiscal stimulus, as well as some relief that the retail trading frenzy in certain stocks appears to be over in the short-term, said Kiran Ganesh, multi-asset strategist at UBS.

“The prospects for fiscal stimulus in the U.S. seem to be getting revised upward … Now, Biden is talking about $1.9 trillion,” he said — around 9% of U.S. GDP.

UBS expects that after negotiations with Republicans the stimulus will come to around $1.5 trillion.

“There’s still plenty of excitement to get priced in around the stimulus,” he said. “The path of least resistance still seems to be upward at this stage.”

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he agreed with a proposal by Democratic lawmakers that would limit or phase out stimulus payments to higher-income individuals as part of his COVID-19 relief bill.

Oil prices extended their rally for the ninth consecutive day — the longest winning streak in two years — supported by producer supply cuts and expectations that vaccine rollouts will drive a recovery in demand.

But Eric Vanraes, a portfolio manager at Eric Sturdza Investments, said bond and equity markets were too optimistic.

“There is a lot of optimism in markets about the end of the crisis. But nobody knows when that will be — we don’t want this scenario to take place but cannot totally exclude that later this year we could still be with this pandemic with the same problems of lockdowns,” he said.

China’s consumer price index fell more than expected, but factory prices posted their first year-on-year rise in 12 months, suggesting gathering momentum in the industrial sector.

The dollar slipped against a basket of currencies, down 0.1% at 90.374 at 1125 GMT, having hit a two-week low.

U.S. CPI data is due later in the session. Also in focus in a webinar in which the Fed’s Powell will speak about the state of the U.S. labour market at 1900 GMT.

“Markets will probably be looking out for any comments around inflation because that is something that is likely to rise quite substantially in the near term at least, because of year-over-year comparisons,” said UBS’s Ganesh.

“Markets are going to be looking for reassurance that the Fed is not going to jump or overreact to a temporary period of higher inflation.”

The 10-year Treasury yield was little changed at 1.1637%, having dipped from a spike on Monday to its highest since March last year.

Earnings also contributed to market optimism, with French bank Societe Generale among those beating fourth-quarter profit expectations. [nL8N2KF7BS]

After Wall Street pulled back on Tuesday, S&P 500 futures pointed towards a stronger open, up 0.4%.

In Europe, the benchmark 10-year German Bund yield was steady at -0.442%. Italian borrowing costs hit a one-month low on Tuesday as Mario Draghi made progress in his attempt to form a government.

The euro was little changed at $1.2123, having reached its highest in nine days.

Elsewhere, bitcoin was trading around $46,575 and Ethereum hit record highs.

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