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Markets

Stocks rise but virus, inflation fears linger

  • Brent crude briefly broke $70 a barrel, hitting the highest level since March on solid demand as coronavirus-hit economies reopen around the world.
18 May 2021

LONDON: Stock markets rallied Tuesday, with Frankfurt hitting a fresh record as investors looked past rising coronavirus infections to bet on global recovery despite high inflation, after Tokyo brushed off data showing the Japanese economy shrank more than expected in the first quarter.

Brent crude briefly broke $70 a barrel, hitting the highest level since March on solid demand as coronavirus-hit economies reopen around the world.

The dollar slid versus its main rivals as easing inflation worries dampened the prospect of a US interest-rate rise, while the pound won support from upbeat UK unemployment numbers.

In stocks trading, "shares in Frankfurt rose to a record high in early trade as European... markets started Tuesday in upbeat fashion", noted Neil Wilson, chief market analyst for Markets.com.

"In the wake of last week's inflation scare, Fed officials have duly been wheeled out to shore up risk sentiment."

Traders in Asia and Europe built on a broadly positive previous day despite a retreat on Wall Street Monday, bringing some much-needed stability after last week's topsy-turvy performance as Federal Reserve officials continue to reassure that fears of long-term, red-hot inflation were misplaced.

The key event this week is the release of minutes from the US central bank's April policy meeting, which will be scanned for clues about board members' views on price rises as the world's top economy bursts back to life with vaccines allowing further reopenings.

Some worry that the explosive rebound will push inflation so high that the Fed will have to tighten interest rates or wind back other easing measures to keep the situation from running out of control.

"Hotter inflation has materialised and market volatility is rising as the economic restart gathers pace," noted BlackRock strategist Jean Boivin.

Tokyo's main stocks index led gains, closing up more than two percent after data showed the Japanese economy contracted more than expected in the first three months of the year, breaking a run of two straight periods of growth, as it was hit by new containment measures.

Major parts of the country, including Tokyo, have been under states of emergency, with people urged to stay at home and restaurants told to close earlier. The outbreak has raised concerns that the already delayed summer Olympics could be called off again.

Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Mumbai and Bangkok rose more than one percent, while there were also gains in Wellington, Sydney and Shanghai.

London, Paris and Frankfurt all pushed higher approaching the half-way point in Europe.

Taipei soared more than five percent as tech firms enjoyed some bargain-buying, having been battered in recent weeks by inflation fears -- tech firms are more susceptible to higher interest rates.

The index has also been suffering as Taiwan is hit by a surge in virus cases. Singapore was also well up on bargain-buying but traders there are also taking fright at a jump in infections.

Key figures around 1100 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 7,067.53 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.3 percent at 15,441.97

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 6,382.31

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 4,020.88

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 2.1 percent at 28,406.84 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.4 percent at 28,593.81 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,529.01 (close)

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 34,327.79 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2211 from $1.2140 at 2115 GMT on Monday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4194 from $1.4100

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.04 pence from 86.07 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.99 yen from 109.34 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.6 percent at $69.86 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.5 percent at $66.57 per barrel