World Shares Tick Up as China Stabilizes

Markets Reuters

World shares edged up on Friday and oil prices rebounded as more evidence that China's economy has stabilised lifted sentiment.

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Stock markets globally have fallen for much of this week and the dollar has slipped to near two-month lows as mixed U.S. economic reports have unsettled expectations the Federal Reserve would start to trim its bond buying as early as next month.

However, a run of upbeat Chinese economic data in the past two days has eased concerns about a slowdown in China, which could have derailed the fragile growth underway in the United States and hopes of a European recovery, and given some investors reasons to buy.

Europe's FTSE Eurofirst 300 index inched up 0.1 percent by mid-morning following on from modest gains in Asia, where the Chinese figures saw stock indexes in Shanghai and Shenzhen post their best week in a month.

"It appears that concerns about more of a slowdown than you might have wanted in China have gone away a little which ... is broadly reassuring," Ian Williams, equity strategist at Peel Hunt, said.

China said factory output in July rose 9.7 percent, beating forecasts, and retail sales grew 13.2 percent while inflation held steady. The data added to Thursday's trade figures showing exports from the world's second-largest economy running at a surprisingly strong pace.

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The promising numbers lifted oil prices towards $107 a barrel, a day after they hit their lowest levels in more than a month. The commodity-linked Australian dollar stretched its recent gains by 0.5 percent to trade at 91.5 U.S. cents.

The numbers indicate that the Chinese government's efforts to generate momentum in an economy that has slowed in nine of the past 10 quarters may be working, though most analysts say more evidence is needed.

"Broadly speaking, economic growth is stabilising and recovering slightly, but we still need to see whether the momentum could be sustained," said You Hongye, an economist at China Essence Securities in Beijing.

MSCI's world equity index was a few points higher as a result but stayed on course for its first weekly decline since late June when speculation of an early end to the Fed's stimulus programme surfaced.

TAPER TIME

Talk about when the Fed will begin cutting back on the $85 billion a month it spends to buy bonds to help the economy still dominates the markets.

Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher reiterated on Thursday that the central bank remained open to trimming its bond purchases from September if economic data keeps improving, but there was little expected on Friday that would help clarify the situation.

The uncertainty left the dollar languishing near its weakest levels in nearly two months against a basket of other major currencies, while the euro has risen to a seven-week high of $1.3380.

"We're still of the view the Fed may wait until December to taper," Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank, said. "The market was very long of U.S. dollars assuming the Fed would taper sooner rather than later, and the Fed has pushed back against that," she said.

The softer tone to the dollar has been led by an easing of yields on U.S. government debt as buyers returned amid the uncertainty over the Fed's plans. The 10-year Treasury note yielded around 2.58 percent not far from the 2.573 percent level hit on Thursday, its lowest since July 31, according to Reuters data.

The slide in the dollar has also given gold a boost after it dropped below $1,300 an ounce early in the week on the early Fed tapering speculation. Spot gold was trading around $1,310 an ounce having risen 2 percent on Thursday.