Stocks rally on China’s factory rebound, trade hopes

LONDON (Reuters) – Global stocks rallied on Monday, building on gains from their best quarter since 2010, as investors cheered upbeat factory activity data in China and the United States and signs of progress on the U.S.-China trade front.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Major U.S. indexes were higher as the S&P 500 expanded on its best first quarter since 1998. Data showed China’s manufacturing sector surprisingly returned to growth for the first time in four months in a sign government stimulus measures were taking root.

U.S. data indicated manufacturing activity improved in March while construction spending for February increased. That was enough to overshadow an unexpected drop in February retail sales.

“Investor fears of an impending recession were somewhat assuaged given the China report and then reiterated with the local data too,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Capital Management in Chicago.

European stocks also rallied and were on track for their best day since Feb 15, buoyed by gains in auto shares, coming on the heels of their best quarterly performance in three years.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 247.37 points, or 0.95 percent, to 26,176.05, the S&P 500 gained 23.81 points, or 0.84 percent, to 2,858.21 and the Nasdaq Composite added 76.32 points, or 0.99 percent, to 7,805.64.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1.19 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.96 percent.

Investors were also encouraged by recent trade developments. China’s State Council said on Sunday the country would continue to suspend additional tariffs on U.S. vehicles and auto parts after April 1 in a goodwill gesture following a U.S. decision to delay tariff hikes on Chinese imports.

Recent signals from bond markets have raised concerns among investors about the possibility of a slowdown in the global economy. Yields on short-dated government bonds in the United States had fallen below those of longer-dated bonds known as yield curve inversion, which has preceded every major recession.

The 3-month-to-10-year yield spread has since pulled back from negative territory and stood around 8 basis points, a two-week high, on the heels of the manufacturing data.

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 19/32 in price to yield 2.4813 percent, from 2.414 percent late on Friday.

Still, the retail sales data was weak enough to dent the dollar, which was lower against a basket of major currencies.

The dollar index fell 0.1 percent, with the euro up 0.02 percent to $1.1218.

Sterling was last trading at $1.3133, up 0.78 percent on the day as Parliament will again try to take control of Britain’s departure from the European Union on Monday. Some lawmakers hope to force Prime Minister Theresa May to drop her Brexit strategy and pursue close economic ties with the bloc.

Oil climbed more than 1 percent with U.S. crude futures hitting a 2019 high on Monday after tight supply and positive signs for the global economy drove both benchmarks’ largest first-quarter gains in nearly a decade.

U.S. crude rose 1.63 percent to $61.12 per barrel and Brent was last at $68.64, up 1.57 percent on the day.

Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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