European shares test 2-year highs


European shares inched towards two-year highs this morning and German Bund futures dipped, as a political attempt to break a budget impasse in the United States revived appetite for shares and dented appetite for safe-haven assets.

US House Republican leaders said on Friday they would seek to pass a three-month extension of federal borrowing authority in the coming days to buy time for the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass a plan to shrink budget deficits.

European shares were supported by the news, but with no clear response from the Democrats and a thin session expected due to a market holiday in the United States, the impact on other assets such as Bunds is likely to be limited.

London's FTSE 100, Paris's CAC-40 and Frankfurt's DAX opened between 0.4 and 0.5 per cent higher, lifting the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 0.3 per cent and MSCI's world index 0.1 per cent.

"There's a bit of encouragement coming out of the US," said Toby Campbell-Gray, head of trading at Tavira Securities in Monaco.

He added that equity markets had remained resilient in the face of an uncertain economic outlook as many investors had stepped in to buy "on the dip" on days when shares had fallen.

Ahead of the region's first finance ministers' meeting of the year the euro was steady against the dollar, while the yen firmed after touching a new low, ahead of a Bank of Japan decision expected to deliver bold monetary easing.

The dollar slipped back to a low of 89.42 yen and was last trading at 89.57 yen, while the euro also fell to a low of 119.08 and last traded at 119.27 yen.

With little in the way of economic data or debt issuance and US markets shut for the Martin Luther King Jr public holiday, it was expected to be a fairly quite market day.

Meanwhile, euro area finance ministers, gathering in Brussels today, will begin talks on how to channel firewall funds directly to banks.

Policy makers are likely to clash over how and when the €500 billion European Stability Mechanism can bypass governments.

An assessment of Spain, Cyprus and Greece is also expected to feature.


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