London — Global shares crept higher on Wednesday as prospects of fresh China-US trade talks drew a guarded welcome from investors, while dour data on eurozone economic activity hit the euro ahead of a European Central Bank (ECB) policy meeting.
Downbeat earnings, as well as weaker-than-expected purchasing manager surveys in France and Germany, took European shares and the euro a leg lower, with the single currency hitting two-month lows.
MSCI’S all-country world index of stocks extended its previous day’s gains by a whisker, rising 0.02%.
Broad sentiment was boosted by a Bloomberg report that US trade representative Robert Lighthizer would travel to Shanghai next week for meetings with Chinese officials. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow called it a good sign on Tuesday and said he expected Beijing to start buying US agriculture products soon.
Chinese blue chips climbed 0.8% while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan gained 0.1%.
“While the resumption of trade talks appears to mitigate any near-term deterioration in US-China tensions, prudent investors will not get carried away, seeing as a meaningful deal still seems a long way off,” said Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM.
Stocks are just a whisker away from all-time highs, buoyed by expectations of a wave of policy stimulus by global central banks and a resulting sharp decline in bond yields. The ECB is thought likely to at least offer a nod to easier policy at its meeting on Thursday.
Futures remain 100% priced for a rate cut of 25 basis points (bps) from the US Federal Reserve next week, and even imply an 18% chance of 50bps.
The prospect of widespread central bank largesse helped take the sting out of a downgrade to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) global growth forecasts.
“There are two conflicting catalysts for stock traders right now: on one hand, central banks around the world are about to embark on an easing initiative,” said Konstantinos Anthis, head of research at ADSS. “On the other, though, the slowdown in growth on a global scale and various geopolitical factors keep weighing down on corporate profitability, asking questions on whether equities have peaked.”