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Global markets: Stocks lifted to month-high by US debt ceiling hopes

by WorldFinance
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LONDON/SINGAPORE: Global shares hit a one-month high on Friday as markets reflected increased hopes of a US debt ceiling deal that could avoid a potentially calamitous default, according to Reuters.

Europe’s STOXX 600 was up 0.7 percent, while e-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent, following a 0.9 percent gain for the benchmark Wall Street index overnight.

MSCI’s broadest index of global shares was up 0.2 percent, hitting its strongest level since mid-April and on course for its biggest weekly gain since late March.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was steady on the day, having hit its highest level since March 20 earlier in the session. The euro reached its lowest position in almost two months, at $1.0771, before recovering to $1.079. Sterling, at $1.2405, was near its weakest point since April 25.

The moves came after Democratic negotiators told President Joe Biden they were making “steady progress” on a deal to lift the US debt ceiling and avoid a default by the world’s largest economy, whose currency and Treasury debt markets underpin global trade and investment.

The US government may default on some debt as early as June 1 unless Congress votes to lift the debt ceiling.

This prospect has sparked fears of a recession and raised questions over the global status of US Treasury debt, a $23 trillion market that is seen as providing the lowest-risk source of liquidity for companies, investors and central banks.

“It’s a high-risk but low-probability event,” Kevin Thozet, investment committee member at European fund manager Carmignac, said of the debt ceiling.

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“But US Treasuries are considered risk-free, so the idea that they might not be is massive and that’s why this is shaking markets, ” he added.

Treasuries traded calmly, with the 10-year yield, which moves inversely to the price of the debt and is used as a yardstick to value most other financial assets, down 2 basis points at 3.63 percent.

The two-year yield was 5 basis points lower at 4.22 percent. Germany’s equivalent Bund yield was steady at 2.45 percent.

Debt ceiling relief complicates the outlook for US government bonds, where yields broadly track Federal Reserve interest rates, as fading recession risk could prompt the world’s most influential central bank to keep monetary policy tight as inflation remains high.

The Fed has lifted borrowing costs at each meeting since March 2022, bringing them from near zero to a 5-5.25 percent range as of early this month.

Markets are now pricing in a 36 percent chance of a 25-basis points hike when the Fed meets next month, compared with 10 percent chance a week ago, CME’s FedWatch tool showed.

Data overnight showed fewer-than-expected Americans filed initial jobless claims last week, lowering chances that the Fed will cut rates before year-end.

Investors will parse comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s panel discussion later on Friday for more clues over the future path of interest rates.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei 225 hit its highest level since 1990, reflecting debt ceiling optimism and the fact global investors are returning to Japan as its economy and corporate governance improve.

Brent crude was at $76.26, up 0.5 percent on the day, while copper rose 1.2 percent to $8,266 a ton.

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Spot gold added 0.4 percent to trade at $1.965 an ounce.

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