Rate hikes and tech optimism send stocks higher

New York (AFP): European and US stock markets mostly rose on Thursday after the European Central Bank and Bank of England raised interest rates, joining the US Federal Reserve in moving once again to cool sky-high inflation amid a less dire outlook.

Forecast-beating results by Facebook-owner Meta helped drive a rally in tech stocks that sent the Nasdaq Composite up by more than three percent, while Google parent Alphabet, Apple and Amazon reported earnings after the bell.

Online shopping giant Amazon beat expectations with its quarterly sales numbers but Alphabet and Apple fell short, with the iPhone maker seeing a fall in sales of its flagship product. Investor sentiment in the United States however was boosted by hopes that the Federal Reserve will soon end its cycle of interest rate hikes, after it unveiled a smaller increase amid progress on cooling inflation.

Gains by equities in London, Frankfurt and Paris accelerated after the ECB and BoE each announced half-percentage-point rate hikes as anticipated. Germany’s DAX climbed 2.2 percent to hit an 11-month high.

The euro and the pound both fell around one percent against the dollar before clawing back some ground, despite the latest rate increases being larger than the Fed’s quarter-point hike. The ECB said another half-point increase would come in March, adding that it would “stay the course in raising interest rates significantly at a steady pace.”

BoE governor Andrew Bailey said inflationary pressures were still present and it was “too soon to declare victory,” even as the central bank forecast a UK recession that would be shallower than expected this year as the country faces a cost-of-living crisis.

“While the tone of both press conferences would appear to suggest that both central banks have further to go in raising rates, markets appear to be taking the view that we’re near a peak,” said analyst Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.

Signs are growing the eurozone may have passed the worst of an economic shock, with inflation slowing from a high in October and the single currency area eking out growth at the end of 2022. Wall Street picked up where it left off Wednesday, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq surging 3.3 percent after Facebook and Instagram-owner Meta beat sales expectations.

While Meta reported its first annual sales drop since the company went public in 2012, the one percent fall to $116.6 billion was less brutal than expected and the company’s shares shot up 23.3 percent.

But the blue-chip Dow closed 0.1 percent lower while the broad-based S&P 500 picked up 1.5 percent.

Tech firms had led a surge on the Nasdaq and S&P 500 indices Wednesday after the US central bank unveiled a smaller interest rate increase.

The decision to lift rates by the smallest amount in almost a year came after a series of indicators suggested the world’s largest economy was slowing, with US inflation at its lowest level since October 2021.

“Overall, the capital markets behaved as if they are confident in the idea that the Fed will be pausing its rate hikes soon and that a rate cut before the end of the year is not out of the question,” said analyst Patrick O’Hare at Briefing.com.

In Asia, the main equity indices closed mixed ahead of European rate decisions, with investors unable to maintain an early rally.

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 34,053.94 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 1.5 percent at 4,179.76 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 3.3 percent at 12,200.82 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.8 percent at 7,820.16 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX: UP 2.2 percent at 15,509.19 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 1.3 percent at 7,166.27 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.7 percent at 4,241.12 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 27,402.05 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.5 percent at 21,958.36 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: FLAT at 3,285.67 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0918 from $1.0995 on Wednesday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2225 from $1.2378

Euro/pound: UP at 89.21 pence from 88.76 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 128.62 yen from 128.90 yen West Texas Intermediate: DOWN

0.7 percent at $75.88 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.8 percent at $82.17 per barrel