Europe strains for gains, dollar takes a breather

LONDON (Reuters) – European stocks were attempting to equal their longest winning streak since 2017 on Thursday, while the dollar and bond yields took a breather after U.S. inflation data cooled talk of a rapid reeling-in of Federal Reserve stimulus.

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians leave and enter the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo/File Photo

Asian stocks had suffered more Chinese jitters overnight after state media reported online insurance companies would come under tougher regulatory scrutiny, but Europe soldiered on as it looked for a 9th straight day of gains.

Insurance giants Aegon, Aviva and Zurich were all helping the cause with jumps after results, while signs of life in the holiday market helped TUI shares claw back 3% of the 50% they have lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the macro front, Britain’s economy grew by a faster-than expected 1% in June. The food and beverage services sector surged more than 10% as the economy continued to reopen. It also meant UK GDP rose by 4.8% year-on-year in Q2.

“These figures knock fears over the impact of the Delta variant on the head,” said Steve Clayton, a fund manager at Hargreaves Lansdown. “Consumers are continuing to spend, regardless.”

Otherwise it was still about Wednesday’s U.S. consumer price inflation data, where a widely forecast slowdown in the pace of rises had taken some heat out of speculation over when the Federal Reserve might taper its massive bond buying programme.

Treasury yields had jolted down to nearly 1.30% but then bounced back to 1.34% and were broadly steady in European trading. [GVD/EUR]

Germany’s 10-year yield was down by half a basis point at -0.465% which kept the gap with Treasuries near a two-month wide.

In the FX market, the dollar was still near a four-month peak against major peers after it, too, had retreated after the inflation data. [/FRX]

“That makes it more likely that inflation will ease back to the 2% target by itself and less likely that the Fed will have to hike interest rates more aggressively than so far assumed,” currency analysts at Commerzbank said in a note, adding producer price data due later on Thursday was likely to confirm the trend.

BEARS IN THE CHINA SHOP

There are plenty of U.S. earnings due later. Walt Disney will report along with Airbnb, Doordash and Chinese internet giant Baidu, whose U.S.-listed shares have more than halved since February as Beijing has made sweeping regulatory changes.

Asian shares had dropped again overnight dragged down by a 0.8% fall in Chinese bluechips and a 0.5% drop in Hong Kong as weaker-than-expected China lending data triggered liquidity concerns.

Among the biggest sliders was Chinese online insurer ZhongAn, which fell 11.5% after state media said China’s banking and insurance regulator would step up scrutiny of online insurance companies. [L4N2PJ14V]

Nervous traders have been quick to respond to remarks from Chinese state media and officials, after many were surprised by last month’s tougher-than-expected new rules for the private tutoring sector here, one of several regulatory crackdowns that have roiled sectors from technology to property here.

Whereas the main all-world stocks indicies have been hitting regular record highs, MSCI’s main Asian benchmark is now down over 10% from its February peak. Some Chinese stocks have lost nearly 90%.

“The money is just in the U.S. and European markets right now, and that’s our preferred market too,” said Daniel Lam, senior cross-asset strategist, Standard Chartered Wealth Management.

In the commodity markets, oil largely held on to gains from earlier in the week, U.S. crude dipped 0.03% to $69.23 a barrel. Brent crude was flat at $71.43 per barrel.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday had urged the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+, to boost oil output to tackle rising gasoline prices that they see as a threat to the global economic recovery.

Gold also held on to overnight gains, with the spot price up fractionally at $1,756 an ounce having risen 1.3% in the previous session. Easing fears about higher interest rates would typically help the non-interest bearing asset.

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