World stocks edge higher for sixth day of gains, dull business activity hits euro

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LONDON/TOKYO — Global stocks were marginally higher on Friday, eyeing a sixth day of gains as European markets rose, while weak euro zone business activity data hit the euro and weighed on the bloc’s debt.

The MSCI World index, its broadest gauge of equity markets, was last up 0.04% in early European deals, with the Euro STOXX 50 index up 0.2%.

Overnight, the MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.1%, but the index is still set for its biggest weekly gain in about two months.

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U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open after weak overnight earnings from tech company Snap Inc sounded the alarm among investors ahead of earnings from Twitter Inc later on Friday.

S&P 500 futures were last down about 0.4%, with Nasdaq futures down 0.7%.

Despite Russian gas flowing back to Europe and some strong earnings in the region, political tension in Italy tempered sentiment as did the outlook for further central bank action on both sides of the Atlantic amid rising inflation.

The European Central Bank raised interest rates by a bigger-than-expected 50 basis points to zero percent on Thursday, its first hike in 11 years, and ended a policy of negative interest rates that had been in place since 2014.

Mark Haefele, Chief Investment Officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said he remained cautious about the outlook for stocks.

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“The larger-than expected 50-basis-point hike was positively received by markets, but we retain a cautious view on European stocks as the ECB treads a fine line between fighting inflation and avoiding recession.”

After initially gaining, the euro pulled back against the dollar and fell further on Friday as traders weighed the likely rates trajectory. It extended losses after weak business activity data hit traders’ screens.

Euro zone business activity also showed an unexpected contraction, with businesses continuing to report rising costs as inflation bites, hitting consumer demand and weighing on the outlook.

The euro was last down 0.9% against the dollar at $1.0143 but remains up about 0.6% on the week, on course to post its biggest gain in a month.

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German 10-year debt yields also took a hit on the weak Purchasing Managers Index data, falling 13 basis points to 1.09%.

Elsewhere in foreign exchange markets, the dollar was up 0.6% against a basket of major peers, buoyed by the euro weakness, but remained on course for its biggest weekly fall since late May as recent weak economic data tempered bets for the size of an expected Federal Reserve interest rate rise.

The U.S. Federal Reserve meets to set interest rates next week and expectations of a 100 bp hike have faded in favor of pricing for a 75 bp move.

Leading cryptocurrency Bitcoin was last up 0.2% to $23,176 and on course for its best week since last October.

Across commodities, oil prices were slightly lower, with Brent crude futures and U.S. WTI crude futures both down around 0.1%. Gold was flat at $1717.9 an ounce.

(Editing by Sonali Desai, Lincoln Feast and Edmund Klamann)



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