Saturday, October 15, 2011

World stocks, euro rally on crisis hopes, U.S. data

NEW YORK: Global stocks and the euro rallied on Friday, Oct 14, over growing optimism that Europe is on track to resolve its festering sovereign debt crisis and after data showed a surprising surge in U.S. retail sales.

The benchmark S&P 500 posted back-to-back weekly gains for the first time since early July while the euro headed for its best week in nine months against the U.S. dollar and gold marked its biggest weekly rise in six weeks.

Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank chiefs began two days of talks in Paris on Friday, which investors hope will provide a basis for a draft plan in time for a European Union summit on October 23.

"Right now we are trading on hopes of a decisive policy response," said Jens Nordvig, head of G10 FX strategy at Nomura Securities in New York.

The euro rose 0.8 percent to $1.3881.

While investors do not expect a comprehensive strategy to Europe's debt crisis to come out of the meeting, there was growing optimism that the meeting would put Europe on track for a solution. In addition, data that U.S. retail sales grew by 1.1 percent in September, the fastest pace in seven months, boosted investor sentiment on the economy's prospects.

The data, coupled with earnings from Google (GOOG.O) late Thursday that trounced analysts' expectations, led investors to shrug off a rating downgrade on Spain by Standard & Poor's and an unexpected slump in U.S. consumer confidence in October.

The sales data also was expected to help lift forecasts for growth in gross domestic product even though a resolution to Europe's debt crisis was the real focus for investors.

"The data hasn't mattered for a couple of months. It matters here and there, but most of what today is, is Europe," said John Canally, investment strategist for LPL Financial in Boston.

"Just getting the details of this plan out there and making the details work is the most important thing," Canally said.

For the week, the Dow gained 4.9 percent, the S&P 500 jumped 6 percent and the Nasdaq shot up 7.6 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed up 166.36 points, or 1.45 percent, at 11,644.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX gained 20.92 points, or 1.74 percent, at 1,224.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC added 47.61 points, or 1.82 percent, at 2,667.85.

Google shares jumped 5.9 percent to $591.68 after the Internet search company said growth at its mobile business and a strong emerging market lifted its third quarter, allaying worries that a slowing Europe was hurting business.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top regional shares closed up 0.95 percent at 975.52 points, while MSCI's all-country world equity index .MIWD00000PUS gained 1.4 percent.

The increased appetite for risk also lifted the price of crude oil more than 3 percent and pushed down the U.S. dollar and government debt, usually beneficiaries of bearish news.

"The outlook is good and getting better by the day. Risk is back on," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York.

Crude prices were propelled by the hopes that European leaders would soon agree on how to curtail the euro zone debt crisis.

Early hints that China may loosen credit as inflation cools also boosted gains while investors mostly ignored a preliminary reading of U.S. consumer sentiment that sagged to 57.5 from 59.4 in September, a Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey showed.

November Brent crude settled up $3.57 at $114.68 a barrel on the day of its expiry. Brent crude for December delivery rose $3.26 to $112.46 a barrel.

U.S. crude settled up $2.57 at $86.80 a barrel.

U.S. Treasury debt prices fell, with 30-year yields posting their largest weekly gain in a year after the retail sales data cut the safe-haven allure of U.S. government debt.

Benchmark 10-year note yields, meanwhile, rose for a third straight week, their best three-week advance since late December.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 20/32 in price to yield 2.25 percent.

Spot gold prices rose $12.89 to $1,679.00 an ounce.

U.S. gold futures for December delivery settled up $14.50 at $1,683 an ounce. - Reuters

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