Global Stocks Ease Off Record Highs Ahead Of US Jobs Data

Foreign exchange markets were on edge at the possibility and a safety bid helped the dollar cling to gains that have it headed for its best week in more than two months.

Global Stocks Ease Off Record Highs Ahead Of US Jobs Data
London/Singapore:

World shares slipped from record highs on Friday, and were on course for their worst week in more than two months, while gains in bonds and the dollar were modest as investors waited to see if US jobs data triggers a bigger selloff. The pan-European STOXX 600 index traded flat after earlier rebounding from its worst day in more than a month a day before amid a tech-led plunge on Wall Street on Thursday.

German industrial goods orders rose by a smaller-than-expected 2.8 per cent on the month in July, undermining hopes of recovery for Europe's largest economy from the coronavirus shock.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.3 per cent and looked set to snap a six-week winning streak with its biggest weekly loss since April. Japan's benchmark Nikkei share average closed down 1.1 per cent.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries and had touched record highs earlier on Thursday, shed 0.2 per cent.

"Stock market valuation is rich on a stand-alone basis, but far less extreme compared to other asset classes. Hence, it's likely a bit too soon to be calling the next bear market even though September 3 did mark the top of the equity market back in 1929," said Jeroen Blokland, portfolio manager at Robeco.

US futures were mixed, recovering some ground after heavier losses earlier in the session. Nasdaq 100 futures were down 0.4 per cent and S&P 500 futures were 0.5 per cent up.

The market focus is now on US payrolls due at 1230 GMT (6 pm in India), which could be a selling trigger if an expected slowdown in hiring is deeper than forecast.

"I don't think a huge number of investors will be adjusting their positions ahead of the US payroll data but because of yesterday's selloff there will be a bit more sensitivity to the data," said James Athey, investment director at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

"US jobs data has been pretty consistently awful in a big picture sense. Fundamentally, there is nothing that can happen in payrolls that can tell you much more about the trajectory of the economy."

Foreign exchange markets were on edge at the possibility and a safety bid helped the dollar cling to gains that have it headed for its best week in more than two months. 

The euro, which has fallen from a 28-month peak above $1.20 on talk the European Central Bank is concerned about its strength, seems to have eased its slide for now, and last sat at $1.1852.

The yen was steady at 106.16 per dollar and bonds pared what was a pretty modest rise overnight, given the selloff in the equity market.

Elsewhere, Turkey's lira weakened for a fifth straight session to a new record low as pressure rose on the central bank to tighten credit amid stubbornly high inflation.

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Benchmark US 10-year bond yields rose about 3 basis points on Friday, having fallen overnight.

German yields stabilised, having fallen the day before on equity selloffs.

Tech Tumble, Banks Surge

Thursday's tumble was the biggest one-day percentage drop on the tech-focused Nasdaq 100 since March and the darling stocks of recent months were hit hardest.

Still, the plunge in Apple, Tesla and Microsoft only wound the Nasdaq back as far as where it sat last Tuesday. It is still up 28 per cent for the year so far and 73 per cent higher than its March trough.

"No single factor sparked the sell-off," said Kerry Craig, Global Market Strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, citing more general worries the rally had run too far, too fast.

"However, this is unlikely to be a repeat of the tech wreck of the late 1990s, given how much the market and sector have changed," he added.

In Europe, technology shares fell back after limited tech selling in Asia.

The bank index helped offset tech's problems, with Spanish banks Bankia and Caixabank both marking double-digit gains earlier in the session after they said they were considering a merger to create the biggest lender in Spain.

In commodity markets, oil was headed for its largest weekly drop since June amid worries about demand as the US summer driving season draws to a close.

Brent crude futures were up 0.6 per cent at $44.35 a barrel and US crude was 0.8 per cent higher at $41.69 a barrel.

Gold added 0.4 per cent as investors sought out the safety of the precious metal ahead of the US non-farm payrolls data.