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Stocks hit one-month high, dollar puts squeeze on gold

Stock MarketsJul 18, 2018 07:26AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man shelters under an umbrella as he walks past the London Stock Exchange

By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - World stocks hit a one-month high on Wednesday as a bullish outlook from the head of the U.S. central bank and rising company earnings buoyed the mood, lifted the dollar and sent safe-haven gold to a one-year trough.

Wall Street's jump back above the psychologically significant 2,600-point mark (N) was also keeping Europe's spirits up ahead of another packed day of earnings and data in the United States.

London's FTSE rose 0.5 percent as the pound continued to suffer the Brexit blues, while Germany's DAX climbed to a one-month high on hopes the European Union and U.S. will cut a beneficial deal on car tariffs.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei had also hit a one-month peak as a weakening yen promised to fatten exporters' profits.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added as much as 0.1 percent and Australia 0.6 percent. Shanghai blue chips started firm only to flag as China's yuan lost ground to the advancing dollar.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell stuck with an upbeat assessment on the U.S. economy while downplaying the impact of global trade risks on the outlook for interest rate rises.

"It basically means another rate hike in September and most likely another one after that in December," Rabobank market economist Stefan Koopman said.

"He (Powell) couldn't stay away obviously from the potential threats of protectionism, but he is still waiting to see how everything pans out so he wasn't really concerned about it - and that is giving the market another boost."

BofA Merrill Lynch's latest fund manager survey showed a trade war remained the biggest threat cited by no less than 60 percent of respondents.

For now, U.S. companies seem to be profiting mightily from tax cuts as the earnings season shifts into top gear. Analysts now see second-quarter S&P 500 earnings growth of 21.2 percent, up from 20.7 percent on July 1.

Of the 39 companies in the index that have reported so far, 84.6 percent have come in ahead of market expectations. The Dow ended Tuesday up 0.22 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.40 percent and the Nasdaq 0.63 percent.

Wall Street futures prices pointed to fractional gains later with results from Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), eBay and IBM (NYSE:IBM) all due. (N)[DAY/US]

"The S&P has finally broken to the upside through 2,800 out of the range that has confined it for most of this year, and this could now be the start of a grind higher in global equities over the next few weeks," JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) analysts wrote in a note.

Next stop is the all-time top of 2,872 from January.

To view a graphic on Rise of the dollar in trade-weighted terms, click: https://reut.rs/2L8rLag

POUND IN PERIL

Powell's support for more rate hikes sent two-year Treasury yields to their highest for nearly a decade and lifted the dollar broadly.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was up at 95.251, after jumping 0.46 percent overnight. It also climbed to its highest since January against the yen at 113.07.

The euro slipped further to $1.1634, after weakening 0.4 percent on Tuesday.

The pound had another bout of the blues after UK inflation data came in weaker than expected and with continuing pressure also from British Prime Minister Theresa May only just clearing the latest parliamentary hurdle to leave the European Union.

Wednesday's edition of the Times reported May threatened rebel lawmakers in her own party with a general election if they defeated the bill.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned a no-deal Brexit would have "big" economic consequences and force a review of plans to raise interest rates.

Sterling was last at 10-month low of $1.3035, after sliding 0.9 percent on Tuesday.

The rising U.S. dollar coupled with the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates also spelled trouble for gold, which crashed through major chart support to hit a one-year low.

Spot gold was hovering at $1,224.92 per ounce, having fallen to $1,223.78. The steadily less-precious metal is down more than 5 percent for the year. [GOL/]

Oil prices also eased after an industry group reported an unexpected increase in U.S. crude inventories. Brent fell 70 cents to $71.40 a barrel, while U.S. crude was quoted down 54 cents at $67.55 a barrel. [O/R]

Stocks hit one-month high, dollar puts squeeze on gold
 

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