July 13, 2020 / 8:41 AM / 22 days ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares near five-month peak as earnings season kicks off

* MSCI AC World index closing in on Feb. 26 highs

* Markets brace for U.S. earnings season

* Europe opens 1% higher, euro ticks up ahead on ECB this week

* Investors upbeat even as coronavirus cases surge in U.S.

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Thyagaraju Adinarayan and Wayne Cole

LONDON/SYDNEY, July 13 (Reuters) - World shares were approaching a five-month peak and the dollar slipped on Monday as investors wagered the earnings season would see most companies beat forecasts given expectations had been lowered by coronavirus lockdowns.

The U.S. earnings season kicks off this week with major Wall Street banks JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo reporting on Tuesday. It’s expected to be the second-biggest quarterly earnings drop since 1968, according to Refinitiv data.

“There’s a view that the bar has been set pretty low for them to report the almost obligatory ‘better than expected’ results - the absence of forward guidance from many firms notwithstanding,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.8% as Chinese stocks jumped 2.1% on Monday. Japan’s Nikkei gained 2.2% and South Korea 1.7%.

The optimism carried over to Europe, where stocks rose 1%, even as the U.S. on Friday slapped additional duties of 25% on French luxury goods valued at $1.3 billion, in a tit-for-tat response to France’s digital services tax.

MSCI’s All-Country World Index was just shy of hitting Feb. 26 highs. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 ticked 0.5% higher despite record new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. over the weekend, a divergence that shows no sign of stopping.

“Ongoing grim U.S. COVID-19 infection news continues to be summarily ignored in favour of ongoing optimism regarding the time-line for the discovery and rapid roll-out of an effective vaccine and/or more policy support for asset prices and the U.S. economy,” Attrill said.

The risk-on rally saw the U.S. dollar dip 0.2% against a basket of major currencies after three straight weeks of losses.

The euro, meanwhile, rose 0.2% to $1.132 to maintain its slow uptrend since late last month. Looming large for the common currency was a planned EU summit on July 17-18, where leaders need to bridge gaps on long-term budget and economic stimulus plans.

“If an agreement weren’t to be reached there, then they still expect one within weeks. It’s worth remembering that there are number of complex issues to be worked out,” Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid said.

Safe-haven German yields rose slightly, and Italy’s 10-year yield hit the highest level in over a week at 1.33% in early trade as investors bagged profits after the recent rush to safety cooled.

Yields on U.S. 10-year notes came close to record lows last week at 0.569% and were last at 0.63%.

Super-low rates have in turn been a boon for non-yielding gold which hit a near nine-year high after five straight weeks of gains. The metal was last at $1,807 an ounce, just off a $1,817.17 top.

The hunt for yield has tended to benefit emerging market currencies and those leveraged to commodities such as the Australian dollar, while weighing on the U.S. dollar.

Oil prices eased in early trade, although that followed a sharp rise on Friday when the International Energy Agency (IEA) bumped up its 2020 demand forecast.

Brent crude futures dipped 49 cents to $42.75 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 52 cents to $40.03.

Reporting by Thyagaraju Adinarayan in London and Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Ed Osmond

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