Lagarde’s ECB nomination triggers eurozone share rally - GulfToday

Lagarde’s ECB nomination triggers eurozone share rally

ECB

Retired US Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia (3rd from left) rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Euro zone stocks surged on Wednesday as investors piled into firms with big dividends on hopes European Central Bank chief nominee Christine Lagarde will maintain the ECB’s dovish stance, while Italian shares jumped over 2% on avoiding a EU sanction threat.

The blue-chip eurozone STOXX index closed up 0.9% having touched its highest level since mid-June last year, while the pan European STOXX 600 was also up 0.9% after hitting its highest since end-July last year.

The benchmark STOXX 600 index has risen 20% from a low hit in December last year.

The S&P 500 index hit a record high on Wednesday, led by defensive sectors, as bets of an interest rate cut rose on fears of a slowing global economy due to simmering trade tensions.

The benchmark US 10-year Treasury yields slipped to their lowest since November 2016, while euro zone yields tumbled to record lows on bets the European Central Bank’s next chief would stay a dovish course.

The defensive utilities, real estate and consumer staples rose the most among the 11 major S&P sectors as the falling bond yields made STOCKs that pay high dividends more attractive.

“With the overhang of further tariffs on Chinese imports paused and the chances of a rate cut from the Fed getting higher, more investors are getting comfortable to invest bigger in equities,” said Shawn Gibson, chief investment officer at asset management firm Liquid Strategies.

Defensive sectors powered the rally as investors searched for yield amid expectations that interest rates will remain ultra low for longer with Lagarde at the ECB helm, replacing Mario Draghi.

Healthcare shot to multi-year highs and food & beverage reached all-time highs; real estate, which benefits from low rates, rose more than 1.3% If she is confirmed in the post, investors hope Lagarde will continue the ECB’s recent accommodative policy which, echoed by the US Federal Reserve, helped European markets recover in June from a sharp fall the month before.

“The main concern for markets had been an interruption of the return to accommodative policy Draghi has outlined for September, but a continuation and even expansion of easing is possible when Lagarde assumes control in October,” said David Zahn, head of European fixed income at Franklin Templeton.

“The appointment has reconfirmed the idea that the ECB will support the market over the short-to-mid-term at least.” Euro zone government bond yields fell to fresh record lows. Bank stocks, which tend to suffer in a low interest rate environment, rose 1.4%, underperforming the broader index.

Some investors cautioned that Lagarde’s appointment did not change their view that the region would continue to struggle with weak growth, continued tension between Rome and Brussels over budget deficits and worries about Brexit.

“While the IMF chief is considered a qualified candidate, that won’t necessarily make Europe a more attractive place to invest over a tactical horizon,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management.

Italy’s MIB touched a two-month peak, with its bank index surging 5%, after the European Commission dropped its threat of disciplinary action against the country as Rome took action to bring its growing debt into line with the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Putting a damper on some chip stocks was news that the US Commerce Department’s enforcement staff were told this week that China’s Huawei should still be treated as blacklisted, a stark difference from US President Donald Trump’s statement over the weekend vowing to ease a ban on sales to the firm.

European chipmakers STMicroelectronics and Infineon fell 0.6% and 0.9% on the news, while Siltronic was hurt further by a Deutsche Bank target price cut.

German lighting group Osram shot up 11.5% to the top of the STOXX 600 after sources said its supervisory board is convening an extraordinary meeting on Thursday to discuss a takeover offer from private equity firms Bain and Carlyle.

Meanwhile, oil prices were steady on Wednesday ahead of a US holiday, after a steep fall the previous session when worries about a slowing global economy outweighed a decision by Opec and allies to extend crude output cuts.

Prices rose early, then pared most gains after data showed US crude inventories fell by 1.1 million barrels in the latest week, a much smaller decline than the 3 million barrel decrease analysts had expected.

US crude imports rebounded while exports fell sharply from a record 3.8 million barrels per day (bpd) a week earlier, analysts said.

September Brent crude futures were up 65 cents, or 1%, at $63.05 a barrel by 11:57am.

US crude futures for August delivery were up 24 cents, or 0.4% at $56.49 a barrel. On Tuesday, both benchmarks fell more than 4% on worries about a global economic slowdown.

Gold steadied on Wednesday, paring earlier gains as a rally in equities reduced the attraction of the non-yielding metal, while global growth concerns and prospects for dovish monetary policy kept bullion supported.

Agencies