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European markets rise as Chinese economy roars

While China's economy grew more than expected, analysts are still warning of headwinds
AFP

London (AFP) – Europe’s stock markets rose Tuesday on China-driven global economic optimism, while the pound zoomed to its highest dollar level since the 2016 Brexit referendum on strengthening UK interest rate hike hopes and solid data.

Frankfurt equities rallied, despite a key survey which showed that German investor confidence hit its lowest level since 2012 in April as geopolitical and US trade war fears dogged Europe’s top economy.

“Equity markets in Europe are slightly higher with traders cautiously optimistic,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.

“The concerns about geopolitical tensions in relation to Syria and Russian sanctions have faded a little.

“The broadly positive economic data out of China overnight left traders slightly more hopeful about the state of the global economy,” Madden added.

However, many Asian markets ran out of steam as simmering trade and geopolitical tensions — in the wake of recent US-led Syria strikes — eclipsed upbeat official data showing that China’s economy grew more than expected in the first three months of 2018.

– Pound races higher –

The British pound rallied to $1.4377, the highest dollar level since just after Britain’s shock EU exit referendum in June 2016, buoyed by expectations of Bank of England (BoE) interest rate hikes.

Sterling was handed a boost from official data which showed that average UK wage growth is outpacing inflation for the first time in a year and the unemployment rate remaining at a 43-year low.

“Real wages are still on the rise and this will boost consumer spending and economic growth over the medium term,” said analyst Miles Eakers at foreign exchange trading firm Centtrip.

“The Bank of England will also be mindful of the inflationary effect this could have, increasing the prospects of another interest rate hike — on top of the one widely expected in May.”

Economists expect the BoE to raise its key interest rate next month from the current level of 0.50 percent.

Back in Asia, Hong Kong and China stock markets finished in the red, after fluctuating on data showing the world’s number two economy expanded in January-March at the same rate as the previous three months.

The 6.8-percent reading was slightly more than tipped in an AFP survey and came despite a brewing trade dispute with the United States, a drive to address the country’s troubling debt mountain and a war on pollution that saw factory production cut.

– ZTE halts trading –

Markets in Asia had fallen Monday after a US-led attack on alleged chemical weapons facilities in Syria, in response to what the Western allies say was a toxic gas attack by the Russia-backed regime.

But Wall Street climbed on relief that the strikes did not escalate despite Russian warnings.

However, dealers are keeping a close watch on events, while the trade row with China remains in focus after the Wall Street Journal reported the US is considering measures over Beijing’s restrictions on tech devices.

That came just after Washington banned exports of sensitive technology to Chinese giant ZTE for seven years over the way it handled a probe into the illegal sale of goods to Iran and North Korea.

ZTE halted trading of its shares in Hong Kong and Shenzhen following the announcement, saying it was “assessing the possible impact of the incident”.

 – Key figures around 1030 GMT – 

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,217 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 1.0 percent at 12,508.88

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.5 percent at 5,341.07

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.7 percent at 3,465.85

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 21,847.59 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.8 percent at 30,062.75 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.4 percent at 3,066.80 (close)

New York – Dow: UP 0.9 percent at 24,573.04 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2388 from $1.2380 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.96 yen from 107.12

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4333 from $1.4339

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 15 cents at $71.57 per barrel

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 11 cents at $66.33

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