Opening Call: The Australian share market is to open lower.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average set new records as the U.S. vaccine rollout continued. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.30% amid expectations for substantial U.S. government stimulus. The WSJ Dollar Index rose to 85.44. Natural gas prices soared amid freezing weather across several energy-producing states. Gold prices slipped amid higher Treasury yields.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.7%, to hit its highest close in a year, as the country’s central bank again pledged to maintain ultra-low interest rates for the foreseeable future. The energy, industrials, health and materials sectors led the gains, while retail-related stocks fell after data showed consumer spending was jolted by Melbourne’s latest lockdown.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average rose toward records as investors focused on the potential for more fiscal stimulus and the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.
The broad U.S. stock index ticked up 0.1%, after closing at a record Friday, before the three-day weekend in the U.S. The Dow industrials gained 0.2%, also building on a record from Friday.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite, meanwhile, slipped 0.3%, dragged lower by losses in heavily weighted shares of Apple and Microsoft.
The economically sensitive energy and financial groups led the S&P 500’s 11 sectors, rising 2.6% and 2%, respectively.
Gold futures fell to settle below the key $1,800 mark for the first time in over a week, with investors focused on a strong climb for benchmark bond rates, which can compete against bullion for haven bids.
April gold fell 1.3%, dropping below the psychologically significant level of $1,800. Prices haven’t settled below that key level since Feb. 4, FactSet data show.
Natural-gas futures led to an across-the-board surge in energy prices, as swaths of the U.S. struggled with subzero temperatures and rolling blackouts hit several states.
March natural gas climbed nearly 7.5%, with front-month contract prices logging their highest settlement since early November of last year, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
The deep freeze also triggered a sharp gain in oil-futures prices. March West Texas Intermediate crude rose 1% — with front-month prices above $60 for the first time since January 2020.
April Brent crude edged up nearly 0.1%, eking out a finish at a roughly 13-month high.
Major currencies were mixed against the US dollar in European and US trade. The Euro held between US$1.2080 and US$1.2130 and was near US$1.2120 at the US close. The Aussie dollar rose from lows near US77.17 cents to highs near US77.65 cents and was near US77.55 cents at the US close. And the Japanese yen held between 104.75 yen per US dollar and JPY105.15 yen and was near JPY104.95 at the US close.
European sharemarkets rose on Friday. Leading the way were equipment maker, ASML Holding, and cosmetics company, L’Oréal, (both up 3%). Shares in ING Groep NV rose 6.7% after the largest Dutch bank reported better-than-expected quarterly pre-tax earnings. But shares in Volkswagen fell 0.7% after reporting a fall in deliveries. The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose by 0.6%. The German Dax index lifted by 0.1%. The UK FTSE index rose by 0.9%. In London trade, shares in Rio Tinto rose by 0.4% and shares in BHP rose by 0.6%.
Markets in China were shut for new-year celebrations.
Hong Kong shares marked a sixth consecutive session of gains as the benchmark Hang Seng Index added 1.9%, reaching its highest settlement since mid-2018. Chinese oil majors led the upturn as crude prices continued to climb.
The Nikkei Stock Average settled 1.3% higher, as the Japanese government’s rollout of its Covid-19 vaccine program improved sentiment. Financial stocks led to the gains.