Global stocks hit record high on strong US and China data

London/Tokyo — Global stocks hit a record high on Friday and oil climbed after strong US and Chinese economic data bolstered expectations of a solid global recovery from the coronavirus-induced slump.

Government stimulus, a string of strong corporate earnings releases and the signs of economic recovery in countries ahead in the Covid-19 vaccination race have all helped push stock markets to new heights in recent days.

MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks edged higher in early European trade, up 0.1% to a record high. Europe’s top indices all opened higher, led by Britain’s FTSE 100, up 0.5% and passing 7,000 points for the first time since February 2020.

“With the vaccine rollout fairly advanced and talk positive about the future state of the economy, investors are once again seeing opportunity rather than threat in UK shares,” said Adam Vettese, an analyst at multi-asset investment platform eToro.

US stock futures pointed to a slightly lower open, with S&P futures down 0.06% and Nasdaq futures down 0.2%

Overnight, Asian markets had tracked a path similar to Europe’s. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares excluding Japan was last up 0.4%, with Shanghai shares adding 0.8% and Japan’s Nikkei up 0.1%.

Driving the move was Chinese data showing record 18.3% growth in the first quarter, though the reading slightly undershot expectations. Retail sales bounced strongly last month.

“We remain focused on a China-led rebound steadily helping the Asia-Pacific region,” said Sebastien Galy, senior macro-strategist at Nordea Asset Management. “As the US economy and then European economies open up, it should further help Asian exports. This should support emerging-market and Asia-Pacific equities, as well as China equities and fixed income.”

Despite the punchy GDP number, gains were tempered by the view that Beijing will act to rein in the brisk expansion later in the year to stop the economy overheating.

“Regulators might make further efforts to cool down the property market and control domestic leverage. Fiscal discipline might also be strengthened, leading to deceleration in local government financing and infrastructure investment,” said Chaoping Zhu, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management in Shanghai.

The strong Chinese data had followed similarly upbeat numbers out of the US overnight. Retail sales rebounded 9.8% in March, pushing the level of sales 17.1% above its pre-pandemic level to a record high.

The brightening economic prospects were underscored by other data, including first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the US, which tumbled last week to the lowest level since March 2020.

All of which helped oil prices push on, hitting one-month highs thanks to the economic data and higher demand forecasts from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and oil cartel Opec.

Brent futures were last up 0.3% at $67.12 per barrel. US crude was 0.2% higher at $63.59 per barrel, both on course for their first substantial weekly gains in six.

Despite the strong data, US bond yields dropped, in part driven by buying from Japan, which began a new financial year this month. The 10-year US treasuries yield hovered near its five-week low of 1.589%.

In the currency market, lower US yields were a drag on the dollar overnight, though the dollar index had recovered to trade flat early in the European session. The euro was flat at $1.1967, having hit a six-week high of $1.19935 overnight. The pound was down 0.3% at $1.3740.

Gold also fell from a seven-week high of $1,769 per ounce to trade at $1,763.70.