By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of global equities advanced on Thursday, buoyed by a round of solid quarterly earnings in Europe and the United States, while the euro weakened after the head of the European Central Bank hailed “solid” economic growth but kept interest rates unchanged.
On Wall Street, technology stocks jumped 2.27 percent, led by a 9.06 percent jump in Facebook Inc and a 4.90 percent rise in Visa after their quarterly results.
Facebook reported a surprisingly strong rise in profit and an increase in users, with no sign that business was hurt by a scandal over the mishandling of users’ personal data. Its shares notched their best day since January 2016.
“It’s been pretty much good earnings across the board,” said Gary Bradshaw, portfolio manager of Hodges Capital Management in Dallas.
“Revenues have been strong, so the earnings are not just cost-cutting as they were a couple years back, but there’s obviously rising costs.”
A drop in the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield below the 3 percent mark also aided equities. Economic data supported the view that the Federal Reserve would stick to its gradual pace of rate increases. Although domestic core capital goods orders fell in March, filings for jobless benefits plunged to their lowest in over 48 years.
The 10-year yield on Wednesday reached its highest since January 2014, at 3.035 percent.
(Graphic: S&P 500 vs U.S. 10-Year Treasury Yield – https://reut.rs/2Kfu7Qs)
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 238.92 points, or 0.99 percent, to 24,322.75, the S&P 500 gained 27.72 points, or 1.05 percent, to 2,667.12 and the Nasdaq Composite added 114.94 points, or 1.64 percent, to 7,118.68.
In Europe, Volkswagen shares closed 2.66 percent higher, even though its first-quarter operating profit fell, as investors were encouraged by its new chief executive, the car maker’s financial health and lower provisions for the diesel emissions scandal.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.91 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.70 percent.
The FTSE index marked its strongest day since April 5 while MSCI’s index snapped a five-session losing streak, its longest since November.
The euro dropped to session lows after ECB President Mario Draghi hailed “solid” euro zone growth but kept rates unchanged, without a clear signal about ending the central bank’s quantitative easing program. The dollar strengthened as short positions unwound on the U.S. economic data.
“You’re seeing a wash-out of short dollar positions primarily,” said Karl Schamotta, director of FX strategy and structured products at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto, Canada.
“It is a far too crowded trade at this point.”
(Graphic: ECB to kick off rate hikes in mid-2019? – https://reut.rs/2KbVFpP)
The euro fell to its lowest against the dollar since mid-January, at $1.2096, after the ECB kept monetary policy unchanged. The euro zone single currency had initially rebounded after Draghi played down concern over recent softness in data.
The dollar index rose 0.46 percent, with the euro down 0.46 percent to $1.2103.
A sharp sell-off in bonds over the last week has been pushing up global borrowing costs, putting additional focus on when the ECB will end its 2.55 trillion euro ($3.2 trillion), three-year stimulus program.
(Graphic: U.S.-led bond selloff – https://reut.rs/2KdVhHe)
After touching four-year highs, yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries dipped below 3 percent as buyers emerged following a week-long sell-off spurred by concerns about rising inflation and growing borrowing by the U.S. government.
The rise in borrowing yields and commodity prices has caused several companies, such as Caterpillar and 3M, to caution this week about rising costs, raising flags for investors about the strength of future earnings.
Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 10/32 in price to yield 2.9865 percent, from 3.024 percent late on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Culp and Kate Duguid; Editing by Leslie Adler and James Dalgleish)