Stock markets edged higher on Tuesday as investors welcomed signs that more monetary and fiscal stimulus was on its way, hoping more easing would help stave off a major global economic downturn. After a tumultuous first half of August when investors dumped equities and poured their money into government debt and other safe havens, some calm has returned to markets this week amid talk of more stimulus in China and Germany.
The pan-region Euro Stoxx 600 eked out gains of 0.1% , following on from Monday’s rally, while France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.13% and Britain’s FTSE 100 0.4%. Germany’s DAX was modestly lower, however. The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, rose 0.1%, although the index remains down more than 3% so far in August. Futures markets point to Wall Street opening more or less flat on Tuesday.
Investors have this week cheered signs that policymakers are willing to do more to support their economies and counter the damage caused by international trade frictions, led by the bruising Sino-U.S. trade war. And not everyone thinks the economy is in as bad a shape as the recent market sell-off – which accelerated last week after short-term borrowing costs in the United States rose above longer-term yields in a possible recession signal – has implied.
“We still see limited near-term recession risks as central banks’ dovish pivot helps stretch the economic cycle, yet caution that trade and geopolitical tensions pose downside risks,” strategists at BlackRock Investment Institute said in their weekly research note. China’s new lending reference rate was set slightly lower on Tuesday after the central bank announced interest rate reforms designed to reduce corporate borrowing costs.
Meanwhile Germany’s coalition government has said it would be prepared to ditch its balanced budget rule to counter a possible recession. The immediate focus now shifts to the minutes, due on Wednesday, of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last meeting. Traders are also awaiting the Fed’s Jackson Hole seminar and a Group of Seven summit this weekend for clues on what additional steps policymakers will boost economic growth.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that senior White House officials are discussing a temporary payroll tax cut to help the economy. Safe-haven assets, which panicked investors had flocked to last week, were back in demand after suffering a bout of selling on Monday. The 10-year German bund yield fell 4 basis points to -0.688% as investors bought into the benchmark euro zone bond, although yields were above the record low of -0.727%.
The U.S. Treasury 10-year bond yield dropped 3 bps to 1.563%, above recent three-year lows.
Financial markets went into a tailspin last week after the Treasury yield curve briefly inverted when short-term yields traded above those of long-term paper. The inversion has presaged previous recessions and is widely watched by markets. Spot gold prices rose 0.6% to $1,503 after tumbling 1.2% on Monday, their biggest daily drop in a month.
The Japanese yen, popular with nervous investors, rose 0.3% to 106.33 yen per dollar but was well below the recent high of 105.05 touched last week. The euro was little moved against the dollar at $1.1082 . Investors sold Italian government debt as the head of the ruling 5-Star Movement signaled the imminent demise of the coalition government by thanking Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte for his time in office.
Conte is set to address parliament later on Tuesday to defend his record after the 5-Star’s coalition partner, the far-right League, said it would present a motion of no confidence in the administration. The benchmark 10-year Italian bond yield rose 4 basis points to 1.47%. In energy markets, oil prices initially extended Monday’s rally on broader market optimism before the gains fizzled. Brent crude was last down marginally at $59.67 a barrel. U.S. crude also fell a touch to $56.11 a barrel.
The key for markets now is whether pledges for more accommodative policy, either monetary or fiscal or a combination of the two, are enough to assuage concerns about the state of the global economy and end fears of recession. In a sign of how far some central banks are willing to ease, Australia’s central bank discussed unconventional monetary policies including negative interest rates at its Aug. 6 board meeting, it’s minutes showed.
Antoine Bouvet, senior rates strategist at ING, said the Reserve Bank of Australia minutes were the most important news of the day because of what they said about easing more generally. “It spells out what the market is implicitly pricing – non-standard measures are difficult to withdraw,” he said. “It is reasonable for rates (government debt) markets to price those measures remaining a feature for a long time.”