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Stock markets rally as more rate cuts eyed

By AFP

March 21, 2024 05:33 PM


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European and Asian stock markets largely rallied Thursday following fresh record-highs for Wall Street as investors cheered the prospect of cuts to US interest rates.

Tokyo and Paris reached new all-time peaks before the latter succumbed to profit taking.

Gold hit a fresh record of $2,220 an ounce as US rate-cut expectations could weigh on the dollar.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday said it saw three cuts to US borrowing costs in 2024 after voting to hold interest rates at a 23-year high. Analysts expect the first reduction in June.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) on Thursday became the first major central bank to cut rates since the end of a global tightening cycle, claiming the battle against inflation was working.

Its announcement sent the Swiss franc sliding to multi-month lows against the dollar and euro.

Later Thursday, the Bank of England was widely expected to keep its main interest rate at a 16-year high, with market watchers looking for clues on when it will start cutting.

Norway's central bank kept its own rate unchanged on Thursday but said it would likely cut borrowing costs in September.

"We are entering a multi-speed exit from tightening phase of the cycle and central banks are starting to need to think for themselves... and take things in the direction that best suits their economy," noted Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Finalto trading group.

The SNB eased its monetary policy and cut its rate by 0.25 percentage points to 1.5 percent, in its first interest rate cut since it began to hike them in June 2022.

The Turkish central bank, facing some of the world's highest inflation, raised its own rate to 50 percent.

Fed officials held rates for the fifth time in a row and released dot plot projections that showed they saw 75 basis points of cuts before year's end, unchanged from December's outlook.

Fed boss Jerome Powell admitted "inflation is still too high" but added that the recent data "haven't really changed the overall story, which is that of inflation moving down gradually on a sometimes bumpy road toward (a target of) two percent".

The positive news was reinforced by a warning Wednesday from European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde that there was a risk in cutting too late, suggesting it could also make its first reduction in June.

All three main indices on Wall Street surged to record highs Wednesday, led by tech giants including Amazon and Apple.

The buying excitement flowed through to Asia, where Tokyo ended at another record high, while Hong Kong piled on nearly two percent.

- Key figures around 1100 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.9 percent at 7,809.74 points

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 percent at 8,144.72

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.2 percent at 18,058.83

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 5,021.84

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 2.0 percent at 40,815.66 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.9 percent at 16,863.10 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,077.11 (close)

New York - Dow: UP 1.0 percent at 39,512.13 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0918 from $1.0923 on Wednesday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 151.08 yen from 151.36 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2768 from $1.2782

Euro/pound: UP at 85.54 pence from 85.44 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.3 percent at $81.01 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $85.78 per barrel

 

 


AFP


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