August 16, 2019 / 12:39 AM / 6 months ago

Dollar firms, stocks soar on ECB rate cut expectations

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. and European stocks surged on Friday on expectations the European Central Bank will cut interest rates but the dollar pared gains against the euro after a report said the German government was prepared to take on new debt to lift the economy.

The dollar hit a two-week high against the euro as expectations of ECB stimulus weighed on the single currency and bullish data showing a jump in U.S. homebuilding permits to a seven-month high also helped lift the greenback.

But German and other euro zone government bond yields rose late Friday on a Der Spiegel report. Borrowing costs had plumbed new lows throughout the week as investors unnerved by the prospect of European recession piled into safer assets.

The euro rebounded to pare most losses after Der Spiegel magazine said the German government would be prepared to ditch its balanced budget rule and take on new debt to counter a possible recession.

Germany’s Finance Ministry declined to comment on the report.

There has been a rising drumbeat of news recently from German politicians and businesses calling for a stimulus program, said Karl Schamotta, director of global markets strategy at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto.

“Markets are still betting on a raft of stimulus measures from the ECB in September and that is having a pretty strongly negative effect on the euro,” Schamotta said. “But in the near term, this idea that we could see more spending out of Germany is helping to alleviate that.”

The German 10-year bund yield DE10YT=RR rose to a negative 0.688%, having earlier hit a record low of negative 0.727%. Rates turned negative in March and have trended lower since May.

The rebound in equity markets buoyed investor sentiment, though it is hard to say the recent rout has found a floor despite cheaper prices, said Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at INTL-FCStone Financial in New York.

U.S. banks are likely to get cheaper because European banks are likely to do so if the ECB does not put together a credible off-set plan for further negative rates for banks, he said.

“That’s the concern. Despite some equities looking attractive the macro concern is giving investors a reason to pause and not so aggressively buy the dip,” Abbasi said.

Technology shares led Wall Street’s advance but U.S. stocks posted a third straight week of declines, battered by the U.S.-China trade row and an “inversion” of 2- and 10-year bond yields that sparked fears of a recession.

MSCI's gauge of stock performance in 47 countries .MIWD00000PUS gained 1.18% and its emerging market .MSCIEF rose 0.69%. In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of leading regional shares closed 1.23%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 306.62 points, or 1.2%, to 25,886.01. The S&P 500 .SPX gained 41.08 points, or 1.44%, to 2,888.68 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 129.38 points, or 1.67%, to 7,895.99.

The euro earlier slid to $1.1090 EUR=, shy of a two-year low it set two weeks ago, on reports the ECB's Olli Rehn had suggested Thursday that a significant easing package was needed in September.

The dollar index .DXY rose 0.06%, with the euro EUR= down 0.15% to $1.1089. The Japanese yen JPY= weakened 0.23% versus the greenback at 106.35 per dollar.

The German 10-year bund posted a fifth straight week of declines, Italy’s 10-year bond yield set its biggest weekly fall since late 1997 and the decline in Spanish 10-year yields were the largest since at least 1994 ES10YT=RR.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes US10YT=RR fell 9/32 in price to push yields up to 1.5589%.

FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

Crude oil prices recovered from two days of declines after data on Thursday, showing a rise in U.S. retail sales, helped ease recession concerns. A bearish outlook from OPEC capped gains.

Brent crude LCOc1 rose 41 cents to settle at $58.64 a barrel while U.S. crude CLc1 settled 40 cents higher at $54.87 a barrel.

U.S. gold futures GCcv1 settled down 0.5% at $1,523.60 an ounce.

Reporting by Herbert Lash, additional reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Chizu Nomiyama

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