European shares held on very closely to a seven-year high last week and Asian shares were able to hit a six-week peak as investors that bet the European Central Bank would reveal a stimulus drive to bolster the flagging Eurozone economy.
Expectations that the ECB will soon announce its sovereign bond-purchasing programme with the potential size seen at approximately 600 billion Euros ($690 billion) kept the Eurozone core bond yields as close to record lows and the same close to an 11-year through.
The Japanese yen meanwhile soared by 1 % against the U.S. dollar following the Bank of Japan left policy unchanged. While the decision not to expand its stimulus package, it was since then expected with some betting on a surprise move as inflation targets appeared elusive.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 equity index was broadly flat at 1,422.51 points. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan increased to 1.4 %.
Company trading updates from brewer SAB Miller and semiconductor equipment-maker ASML received a positive reaction with shares of SAB going up 2.2 % and ASML up 4.7 %. A weaker euro and a recent slide in oil are bolstering most of the Eurozone firm’s earnings this year. Traders, however also pointed to ripples of nervousness ahead of the ECB’s meeting given that the risk of disappointment if the ECB did not meet the market expectations.
A considerable percentage of the market is factoring in a kind of quantitative-easing announcement, so there’s a touch of trepidation with Investors bringing rumours in order to sell the news.
Wagers on the Eurozone monetary stimulus also spread through the commodities markets with gold climbing above $1,300 an ounce for the first time since August. The prospects of an impending deflation and increased market volatility were indicated as prevailing factors supporting the demand for bullion.
Sterling fell to the day’s lowest against the euro and the dollar following the minutes of British central bankers’ last policy meeting revealed a rate rise which was less likely.
Accordingly, there were two policy makers who dropped their call for higher rates in the face of cascading inflation.
Oil prices edged up with the Brent crude holding slightly above the $48.50 following the wake of a recent heavy sell-off in oil that resulted to the chief executive of Total to say that the French energy major plans to cut capital spending by 10 % this year.
Finally, a slightly firmer energy prices were not enough to prevent the Russian rouble from falling further last week. Still, the currency was down 1 % against the dollar as the fighting persistently continued in eastern Ukraine.