LONDON (Reuters) - Questions are growing about the future of U.S. foreign policy as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in German city of Bonn for talks with his G20 peers.
The U.S. stance on China and the Middle East peace process rank high among those queries but the focal point of the day will likely be his meeting this afternoon with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. To what extent the controversy surrounding Moscow’s ties with Donald Trump campaign officials complicates what some hoped would be the start of a “reset” of US-Russian relations will be the main question.
Separately, a less high-profile but potentially just as important meeting is taking place in the Azeri capital Baku: U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford meets the head of the Russian army’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
The ECB today releases the minutes to its fairly uneventful January meeting, where rates were kept on hold. Three ideas on what to look out for: whether they’re as relaxed about inflation as Mario Draghi’s public comments would suggest; whether political risk in Europe (notably French elections) is starting to creep into discussion; whether they’re ready to acknowledge improved underlying growth fundamentals.
A reminder of the fragility of many of Europe’s governments came yesterday as Ireland’s minority government narrowly survived a parliamentary vote of no-confidence over its handling of a policing scandal. This isn’t the end of the story, with Prime Minister Enda Kenny facing growing calls from members of his own party to step aside.
Those calls have gathered pace since Kenny’s Fine Gael support fell to 21 percent in an opinion poll last week, 11 points behind fellow centrist party Fianna Fail - the biggest margin of any recent polling.
World stocks as measured by MSCI hit a record high as investors pile into risky assets after the latest signs of strength in the U.S. economy. Wall Street touched the latest in a series of record highs and Asian shares is at 19-month highs. However, European shares look like they won’t be joining the party, with index futures flat to lower. The dollar is down 0.2 percent against a basket of major currencies as U.S. Treasury yields pulled back from highs hit on Wednesday after the upbeat U.S. retail sales and inflation data. German Bund yields have also opened a shade lower.
In Europe, shares in food group Nestle are seen opening 1 to 2 percent lower after the company’s net profit fell and sales rose less than expected in 2016, hit by slowing emerging markets and a deflationary environment. Air France-KLM shares are seen 3 to 5 percent higher after the company reported better than expected operating profit for 2016 and said it had made a “resilient” start to 2017, as it promised further cost-cutting efforts this year.
Other possible stock movers: GM’s Opel, Peugeot lagging rivals in strong European market-ACEA; Austria to sue Airbus over suspected Eurofighter fraud; Actelion says J&J’s $280 per share offer to start March 3; Restructuring Rabobank lifts underlying profit 14 percent; Atomico closes $765 mln tech venture fund, Europe’s biggest; OMV raises dividend by 20 pct as cash pile grows; Deutsche Telekom’s T-Systems trims forecasts for 2017 - Wirtschafts Woche; Coca-Cola HBC lifts full-year profit on lower revenue; Deutsche Boerse 2016 operating profit rises 18 pct; and Clariant FY profit rises 16 pct on higher margin products.
MSCI’s main Asia-Pacific exJapan index is up 0.2 percent, Tokyo fell 0.5 percent as the yen gained versus the dollar. The yen was last up 0.2 percent at 113.92 per dollar, the euro was up slightly at $1.0606 and sterling up 0.1 percent at $1.2474.
Emerging equities rose 0.3 pct to a fresh 19-mth high on Thursday, tracking gains in developed markets, with Hong Kong stocks at 5-mth highs, and Chinese mainland stocks up 0.5 pct. The gains extended into European markets, with Turkey, Russia and South Africa stocks all pushing higher. Currencies were generally weaker, with the South African rand down 0.5 pct against the dollar, easing off a 17-mth high, whilst the Turkish lira slipped 0.3 pct from a 5-week high. The Russian rouble slipped 0.3 pct from a one and a half year high hit on Wednesday. The Brazilian real was steady at its strongest since June 2015 after the central bank resumed intervention on Wednesday.