Global equities, dollar edge up on U.S. business uptick

By Alwyn Scott

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Upbeat readings on U.S. business activity and home sales help push global equities and the dollar higher on Friday, counteracting earlier stock declines in Europe. The dollar’s gain put it on track to break an eight-week losing streak.

Even as new COVID-19 cases remain stubbornly high across the United States, data firm IHS Markit’s purchasing managers’ survey showed U.S. business activity in August snapped back to the highest since early 2019 on Friday.

The flash U.S. Composite PMI Index rose to a reading of 54.7 this month – the highest since February 2019 – from 50.3 in July. Its flash – or preliminary – indicator for the manufacturing sector stood at its highest since January 2019 and for the services sector it was the highest since March 2019.

Readings of more than 50 indicate growth in private sector output.

Stronger-than-expected U.S. home sales, which rose at a record pace for the second straight month, also pointed to a growing economy.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 0.26{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a}, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 0.09{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a} and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 0.29{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a}.

Among global shares, MSCI’s benchmark for global equity markets <.MIWD00000PUS> was off its lows for the day, down 0.41{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a} to 569.62, while its index for emerging markets stocks <.MSCIEF> fell 1.72{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a}.

Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index <.FTEU3> dropped 0.29{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a} to 1,415.22.

A steep rise in jobless claims on Thursday and Federal Reserve minutes on Wednesday suggested the economy was beginning to stall a little bit, said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

Those “were a little disappointing,” Arone said. With elevated risks, investors are seeking safe-havens.

“Investors are exiting some of the more economically sensitive sectors of the market and going back to the old stalwarts of tech, where you get reliable growth,” Arone said.

Treasuries Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 1/32 in price to yield 0.6428{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a}, from 0.644{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a} late on Thursday.

The 30-year bond last rose 9/32 in price to yield 1.3661{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a}, from 1.377{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a}.

Sombre economic numbers earlier in the day in Europe, including euro zone data pointing to a faltering recovery, doused stock market gains in Asia overnight, and also caused the euro to recoil further from recent peaks.

The loss of momentum came after fresh numbers painting a muted economic outlook, with purchasing managers’ index releases from France and Germany as well as the wider euro zone falling short of expectations, flagging slowing momentum in the recovery.

“The eurozone flash PMIs for August paint a rather muted picture for the single currency area’s nascent economic recovery,” said Moritz Degler, senior economist at Oxford Economics.

“The survey contains some strong evidence that the recovery has slowed in August, particularly in the services sector,” Degler added.

Analysts pointed to rising infection numbers having tempered economic activity. On Thursday, France saw a post-lockdown record in new infections, while countries across the region imposed fresh travel restrictions.

News that Pfizer reported positive early data from a potential COVID-19 vaccine and could be on track to seek regulatory review by October did little to brighten the mood.

European bourses had started the day on a brighter note, following gains in Asia after U.S. tech shares closed higher on Thursday. The S&P 500 has rallied 54{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a} from its March low in a world awash with monetary and fiscal stimulus, but money managers are questioning the future trajectory.

“We think equity markets, certain credit markets, and the U.S. dollar have yet to fully reflect the long-term impact of ultra-loose Fed policy,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management.

In currency markets, the dollar index <.DXY> jumped 0.68{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a}, on track to end what would have been a ninth consecutive weekly decline. Meanwhile the euro extended losses to drop as much as 0.7{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a} to $1.1776, its lowest level in nearly 10 days.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.19{d05f388fa08f4d675a822acf1486e94712302178bac778b4b99d28e44a90be3a} to 105.99 per dollar.

In commodity markets, oil prices were on track for a small weekly loss, with Brent crude futures slipping to $44.29 a barrel and U.S. crude future to $42.24 a barrel.

Gold was a touch softer at $1,935.31 an ounce.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott and Herb Lash in New York, Karin Strohecker in London and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Holmes)

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