Shares rose to near record highs on Thursday, underpinned by a better outlook from Europe's leading carmaker Volkswagen and increasing confidence in economic recovery in Germany and more widely.
The Stoxx index of 600 European companies was up 0.2 per cent at 442.50 points, just below its record high of 443.61. The MSCI’s broadest gauge of world stocks, ACWI, was up 0.18 per cent at 700.98 points, about 10 points short of its record high set last month.
"I have seen nothing in this week's price action to change my view that ultimately the economic prospects in the short to medium term look fairly positive, though events in India could derail any global recovery, particularly if COVID variants migrate out of India," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
“Companies are generating fairly decent profits, they are taking people on. The big question is whether the current rebound is sustainable in the short to medium term, but it does look that way,” Mr Hewson said.
In economic news, strong domestic demand for consumer goods propelled a bigger than expected 3 per cent jump in German industrial orders in March, data showed on Thursday, suggesting that manufacturers in Europe’s largest economy will support a recovery in the second quarter.
Among the standout earnings, shares in Volkswagen rose 1 per cent after Europe’s biggest carmaker raised its 2021 targets, pointing to strong demand for premium cars.
British retailer Next raised its full-year profit guidance for the second time in two months as it reported better than expected first quarter trading, sending its shares 2 per cent higher.
But Germany's Curevac, hoping for approval for its Covid-19 vaccine, tumbled 10 per cent following news that US President Joe Biden has thrown his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines.
Investors will look for more clues on economic recovery from European Central Bank Vice President Luis de Guindos, and the central bank's board member Isabel Schnabel, who speak on Thursday.
The Bank of England publishes the outcome of its latest rate-setting committee meeting and economic forecasts at 1100 GMT. It is expects to say that Britain’s economy is heading for a much stronger recovery this year than it previously expected, and it might start to slow its pandemic emergency support.
Investors also looked to Scotland's election that could trigger a showdown with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over a new independence referendum.
Commodity prices drew strength from the prospects for economic recovery, with copper flirting with 10-year peaks.
Oil prices extended gains to edge near their March tops as crude stockpiles in the United States, the world's largest oil consumer, fell more sharply than expected.
US crude futures stood at $65.91 per barrel, up 0.4 per cent on the day and just below Wednesday’s two-month high of $66.76.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei jumped 1.8 per cent as it reopened after a five-day holiday.
MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.19 per cent. But Chinese shares, also resuming trade for the first time since last week, wobbled. The CSI300 fell 1.2 per cent, led by falls in biotech firms.
Dow hit a record high overnight, having risen 0.29 per cent, while the S&P 500 added 0.07 per cent.
US nominal bond yields held relatively stable, with the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield little changed at 1.578 per cent .
The dollar hovered near a two-week high ahead of Friday’s U.S. monthly jobs report, which is expected to show that nonfarm payrolls increased by 978,000 jobs last month.
The euro was little changed at $1.2022 while the yen changed hands at 109.32 per dollar. – Reuters