* European shares stutter as COVID restrictions weigh
* China blue chips gain over 2%, PBOC adds more loans
* Nikkei slips as Japan reports record drop in GDP
* Rise in long-term U.S. yields offers some support to dollar
* Gold firms after suffering worst week since March
* Graphic: 2020 asset performance tmsnrt.rs/2yaDPgn
* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
By Marc Jones and Wayne Cole
LONDON/SYDNEY, Aug 17 (Reuters) – Shares crept back toward recent peaks on Monday as Chinese markets swung higher, while investors waited to see if a recent sell-off in longer-dated U.S. Treasuries would be extended and perhaps take some pressure off the dollar.
Europe warmed up to the new week slowly but had just about enough strength alongside Wall Street futures to keep MSCI’s main world shares index clawing towards February’s record top.
Chinese blue chips had led the way with gains of 2.35% as the country’s central bank provided more medium term loans to the financial system.
Beijing also granted a patent for CanSino Biologics COVID-19 vaccine candidate Ad5-nCOV.
But Tokyo’s Nikkei fell 0.6% as Japan became the latest country to confirm its biggest economic contraction on record and a retightening of COVID measures in Italy contributed to Europe’s laboured session.
Rabobank strategist Bas Van Geffen said the past few months had seen optimism build about a strong economic bounce-back, but the reimposition of restrictions was an indication of challenges.
“We have already cautioned that this is not going to be a V- shaped recovery … and perhaps this is a sort of a sign to the markets that it is not going to be (a quick recovery)”, Van Geffen said.
The U.S. second-quarter earnings season wraps up with major retailers reporting this week including Walmart, Home Depot and Kohls.
Sino-U.S. relations remain a sticking point with U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday saying he could exert pressure on more Chinese companies such as technology major Alibaba after he moved to ban TikTok.
Balancing that, U.S. crude oil shipments to China look set to rise sharply in coming weeks, and news that a scheduled review of the U.S.-China Phase-One trade deal over the weekend had been postponed indefinitely didn’t elicit much reaction.
Trump said in an interview with Fox as markets prepared to open there that Beijing was “more than” living up to trade deal, citing its corn, soybean and beef orders.
The highlight of the economic calendar will be the release of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting.
“Market participants will be looking for insight into the details and exact timing of when the Fed’s Monetary Policy Review will be completed, and also for more clarity with respect to the potential timing and structure of any changes to forward guidance,” noted analysts at NatWest Markets.
Speculation is rife the Fed will adopt an average inflation target, which would seek to push inflation above 2% for some time to make up for the years it has run below that level.
That combined with massive new debt supply caused a sharp increase in longer-term bond yields last week, with 30-year yields rising 21 basis points as the curve steepened.
As that lift in yields stalled on Monday so did the respite for the dollar after weeks of losses. Against a basket of currencies the dollar was a fraction lower at 92.971, still uncomfortably close to the recent trough of 92.521.
The euro flattened out a little late last week, having met resistance around the two-year peak of $1.1915. Yet it still ended the week with a gain of 0.5% and had shuffled back up $1.1855 on Monday, even as European bond yields dipped again.
The moves took Italian 10-year yields down two basis points to 1.03%, compressing the closely watched Italy-Germany spread to 144.4 basis points, the tightest since February when the COVID spread was just taking hold.
“Investors strategically long EUR/USD should stick to the position,” said CBA forex analyst Elias Haddad. “Greater Eurozone fiscal solidarity, real two-year swap rate differentials and relative central bank balance sheet trends between the Eurozone and the U.S. suggest the fundamental uptrend in EUR/USD is intact.”
The single currency has also made a notable break higher on the yen to reach ground not trodden since April 2019. Indeed, the yen fell against most of its peers last week, though it muscled the dollar back to 106.25 yen on Monday.
In emerging markets Belarus’s political crisis saw its bonds fall along with Russia’s rouble, while in commodities, gold firmed to $1,956 an ounce after the jump in bond yields saw it lose 4.5% last week in its worst performance since March.
Oil prices stumbled though after edging ahead on hopes for Chinese demand and after data showed crude oil, gasoline, and distillate inventories all declined in the week ended Aug. 7.
Brent crude futures drooped to $44.55 from $45.13 a barrel, while U.S. crude dipped to $41.89 from $42.39.
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