LONDON: World stocks stayed close to record highs on Monday as investors weighed surging European business activity and a welcome US jobs report against worries about the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19.
The STOXX index of 600 leading European companies was 0.3 percent higher, reversing earlier losses after data showed eurozone businesses expanded activity at the fastest rate in 15 years in June.
Activity for British services firms also soared in June, albeit at a slightly slower rate. Britain’s FTSE was up 0.5 percent.
French shares also recouped losses sustained after Health Minister Olivier Veran warned that France could be heading for a fourth wave of the pandemic due to the delta variant.
COVID-19 angst also weighed on shares in Japan: The Nikkei fell 0.6 percent to a two-week low following a surge in infections in Tokyo, just weeks before the city hosts the Olympics.
Japan’s services sector activity shrank for the 17th straight month in June, a survey showed.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat. China’s blue-chip stock index recovered from earlier losses to close 0.1 percent higher as pledges by Beijing to continue policy support for its tech sector helped counter worries about a crackdown on ride-hailing giant Didi Global and scrutiny of other platform companies in the country.
The MSCI All Country World index closed at a record 724.66 last week, and was 0.1 percent higher on Monday.
Trading was thinner than usual with US markets closed for the extended 4th of July weekend.
“Markets in general are still trying to find their feet,” said James Athey, investment director, Aberdeen Standard Investments.
“Equities, of course, continue to shrug off or ignore anything that might be considered remotely negative as they continue their merry and complacent dance toward an inevitable reckoning.”
S&P 500 futures signaled a flat open for Tuesday, after the index closed 0.8 percent higher at a record on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.8 percent. setting another record.
US nonfarm payrolls increased by a bigger-than-expected 850,000 jobs last month, data on Friday showed. But the unemployment rate unexpectedly ticked up to 5.9 percent from 5.8 percent, while the closely watched average hourly earnings, a gauge of wage inflation, rose 0.3 percent last month, lower than the consensus forecast for a 0.4 percent increase.
“The goldilocks print suggests there is no need to accelerate the tapering timeline or the implied rate hike profile,” Tapas Strickland, an analyst at National Australia Bank, wrote in a client note.
“Overall the level of payrolls is still 6.8 million below pre-pandemic February 2020 levels, and is still below the level of substantial progress needed by the Fed. As such there is nothing in this report for the Fed to become hawkish about.”
Eyes will be trained on the minutes of the Federal Open Markets Committee meeting from last month, when policymakers surprised markets by signaling two rate hikes by the end of 2023.
Commentary by Fed officials since then has been more balanced, particularly from Chair Jerome Powell, as investors parse Wednesday’s release for further clues on the timing of policy tightening.
Eurozone government bond yields nudged higher but analysts expect the recent downward trajectory to resume after the US payrolls data.
Germany’s 10-year Bund yield was up by one basis point at -0.222 percent.
The dollar flagged after dropping from a three-month high at the end of last week, pressured by the weaker details of the US payrolls report.
It gained about 0.2 percent against the New Zealand dollar , which sat at $0.7022, traded 0.1 percent lower at 110.92 yen and fell 0.1 percent to $1.1876 per euro.
Brent crude added 0.2 percent to $76.32 a barrel, and US crude gained 0.2 percent to $75.31 a barrel.
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