European stocks traded cautiously higher Friday, with Wall Street set for a modest rebound, as investors gingerly added to equity portfolios on the final trading day of the quarter amid one of the biggest bond market routs in more than a year.
U.S. futures prices suggest relatively firm gains at the opening bell, although last night's tech-sector selloff continues to echo in markets around the world after the Nasdaq fell 90 points by the end of the session, wiping out all of the benchmark's monthly gains. The tech-heavy index is called 6.5 points, or 0.2%, higher while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is priced to gain around 0.24% on the final trading day of the quarter.
European stocks booked decent gains in the Friday session, with the region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 benchmark, the broadest measure of share prices, rising 0.37% to 382.03, setting up a 0.23% gain for the second quarter. Britain's FTSE 100, however, was little-changed by mid-day with gains limited by a surging pound, which continues to test multi-week highs against the dollar, and weak retail stocks.
Sterling has gained more than 2.2% against the greenback this week to 1.3021 following indications from various Bank of England rate setters that they may need to tighten policy in the face of faster inflation. Governor Mark Carney, who appeared to argue against that during the Bank's last rate setting meeting, advocated for rate increases during a speech in Portugal Wednesday.
Bond prices, which have been under sustained pressure for most of the week as investors recalibrate inflation expectations in the world's biggest economies, stabilised in European trading, with benchmark U.S. 10-year yields holding at 2.27% while similarly-date U.K. government bonds, known as Gilts, rallied modestly to 1.22%, although that's a 21 basis point increase from Monday's opening price and the highest since March. Benchmark German bunds were seen opening at around 0.43% in European trading, after starting the week at 0.26%, capping the biggest 5-day move since December 2015.
Dollar weakness was also a theme that troubled equity investors around the world last night, and although an index of the greenback's strength against a basket of currencies rallied in European trading to 95.76, its still at the lowest levels in more than nine months as investors shun the dollar in favor of both the pound, the euro and, in Asia, the yen as bets on U.S. rate increases slow and the anticipation of tighter policy from other central banks increases.
The yen's gains overnight pushed the benchmark Nikkei 225 0.92% lower into the close, ending at 20,033.43 points while the region-wide MSCI Asia ex-Japanindex was seen 0.7% lower at 06:30 London time after touching a near two year high in Thursday trading.
Global oil prices, however, cointuned to inch higher, adding around 0.7% in overnight trading to extend their weekly gain past 5% -- the best stretch since May -- even as investors lick their wounds from the biggest first half decline for crude in at least 20 years.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures for August delivery were marked 29 cents per barrel higher at $45.22 while Brent contracts for the same month, the global benchmark, were seen 28 cents higher at $47.70.
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