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International markets roundup

NEW YORK - The latest round of strong earnings reports, including from Intel and AbbVie, along with continued weakness in the US dollar lifted each of the major Wall Street indexes to closing records on Friday.

The three main indexes notched their best four-week run since 2016.

Intel's shares surged as high as $US50.15, their highest level since October 2000, and closed up 10.55 per cent at $US50.08 after results indicated that the chipmaker's shift to higher-margin data-centre business was working.

"We continue to see these positive steps in the right direction and definitely earnings are clearly justifying a lot of the recent move that we've had," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fourth-quarter earnings growth for the S&P 500 is now estimated at 13.2 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters data, up from 12 per cent at the start of the year. Of the 133 companies in the index that have reported through Friday, 79.7 per cent have topped expectations.

The earnings enabled investors to shrug off a reading on economic growth that came in below expectations.

Gross domestic product increased at a 2.6 per cent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said in its advance GDP report, below the three-per cent forecast, as the strongest pace of consumer spending in three years resulted in a surge in imports.

Weakness in the dollar, which is supportive for large multinational companies, continued. The greenback was down 0.34 per cent against a basket of major currencies.

The US dollar was on track for its worst week since May after comments from senior US officials this week backing a weak currency.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 223.92 points, or 0.85 per cent, to 26,616.71, the S&P 500 gained 33.62 points, or 1.18 per cent, to 2,872.87 and the Nasdaq Composite added 94.61 points, or 1.28 per cent, to 7,505.77.

LONDON - British shares rose across the board on Friday as buyers returned to the market following two days of declines driven by a strengthening sterling.

The FTSE index dipped briefly after the pound rose on figures which showed an unexpected acceleration in British economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The index recovered swiftly and closed up 0.6 per cent with healthcare shares contributing most to the broader rise.

AstraZeneca added 1.9 per cent after it reported that its inhaler for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) showed improved lung function in a late stage trial.

Energy was one of the only sectors to end in negative territory, with BP and Royal Dutch Shell down just shy of 0.1 per cent.

Britain's FTSE is the only major European index to have fallen (-0.3 per cent) this year while others have rallied. France's CAC 40 is up four per cent and Germany's DAX has gained 3.2 per cent, helped higher by a more marked pick-up in business activity on the continent and receding political risks.

Market analysts said the UK's underperformance and a slightly weaker pound had prompted some opportunistic "dip buying" on Friday.

"You've actually had some downside momentum for the past few days," said Chris Beauchamp at IG. "The number of stocks above their 20 and 50 day moving averages has been declining, but this usually signifies a buying opportunity, and that appears to be materialising this morning."

HONG KONG - Asian stocks extended their winning run to the 11th day on Friday, while the battered dollar won back some ground after President Donald Trump said he wanted a strong US currency.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.25 per cent for the day, led by gains in Chinese financial and property shares.

It headed for its 11th straight day of gains, the longest sequence since 2015, and also for seventh straight week of gains for the first time since 2010.

Japan's Nikkei ended down 0.2 per cent.

WELLINGTON - The S&P/NZX50 Index fell 58.36 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 8311.41 on Friday.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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