World shares mixed as China reports so-so economic data

Bangkok:  Shares rose in Europe after a mixed session in Asia on Monday as China reported a variety of data that painted a complicated picture of its recovery from the pandemic.

The passage of a 1.9 trillion aid package for the US economy has added to investor confidence that the US and global economy will likely experience a strong recovery from the pandemic in the second half of the year but also potentially increase the rate of inflation.

Germany’s DAX climbed 0.3% to 14,546.95 and the CAC 40 in Paris added 0.5% to 6,075.54. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.4% at 6,789.86. US futures pointed to an upbeat start, with the contract for the S&P 500 up 0.3% and that for the Dow industrials 0.4% higher.

Markets got a mixed message from the data out of China, which has led the global recovery, reopening earlier than other countries from coronavirus shut-downs that emerged in the central city of Wuhan in early 2020.

Retail sales jumped nearly 36% year-on-year in January-February from a year earlier. But the surge was mostly driven by strong demand for cars, catering and jewellery, suggesting Chinese consumers were splashing out during the Lunar New Year, ING economists said in a report.

The data were exaggerated by low base effects from the shutdowns last year, they said.

Meanwhile, the jobless rate rose to 5.5% from 5.2% a year earlier, possibly affected by flare ups of coronavirus in some areas, analysts said.

Travel restrictions weighed on retail sales but boosted industrial output and investment. We think activity will remain strong during the first half of this year, before giving way to a weaker second half,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a commentary.

Domestic policy support is being gradually withdrawn. And foreign demand for Chinese goods will drop back as vaccines start to reverse the recent shift in global consumption patterns,” he said.

The Shanghai Composite index fell 1% to 3,419.95. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.2% higher, to 29,766.97 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.3% to 28,833.76. In South Korea, the Kospi lost 0.3% to 3,045.71. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 inched 0.1% higher, to 6,773.00.

India’s Sensex lost 1.3% to 50,127.98.

Investors will be watching this week for the outcome of a Federal Reserve policy meeting, which wraps up on Wednesday. Japan’s central bank will be issuing a policy update on Friday.

On Friday, a late-afternoon burst of buying helped nudge the S&P 500 0.1% higher to 3,943.34, extending its winning streak to a fourth straight day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.9%, to 32,778.64, lifted by industrial stocks like Boeing and Caterpillar. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 0.6%, to 13,319.86.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks advanced 0.6% to 2,352.79. It ended the week 7.3% higher, outpacing the S&P 500’s 2.6% gain for the week.

The bond market again was the dominant force in pulling tech stocks mostly downward, because as yields push interest rates higher, they make high-flying stocks look expensive.

After remaining stable for most of the week, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to 1.62% from 1.52% a day earlier. Investors had sold off stocks late last week after that yield crossed above the 1.60% mark. On Monday, the 10-year Treasury was at 1.61%.

The increase in bond yields came as President Joe Biden signed into law the 1.9 trillion stimulus plan, which will include 1,400 checks for most Americans and additional payments for those with children or those who collected unemployment benefits last year.

President Biden also laid out a plan, in a primetime speech Thursday, to expand vaccine eligibility to all Americans by May 1.

Some economists fear that inflation, which has been dormant over the past decade, could nudge higher under the extra demand generated by the stimulus package. Others disagree, given that there are 9.5 million fewer jobs in the American economy than there were before the pandemic hit a year ago. They contend that unemployment will keep a lid on inflation.

In other trading Monday, benchmark US crude oil climbed 57 cents to 66.18 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 41 cents to 65.61 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 57 cents to 69.79 per barrel.

The US dollar rose to 109.06 Japanese yen from 109.02 yen late Friday. The euro fell to 1.1931 from 1.1949. (AP)

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