Strong earnings, recovery cocktail sends US stocks to new highs

·4-min read
The US economy delivered strong growth in the first quarter according to data released Thursday

US stock indices struck new intraday highs Thursday as traders welcomed blockbuster earnings, a soothing message from the Federal Reserve and more data pointing towards a solid economic recovery.

However those gains faded a bit as traders also reacted also to President Joe Biden's first address to Congress where he laid out another huge spending plan aimed at helping American families and paid for with taxes on the wealthy.

Data showed that the US economy accelerated in the first quarter to an annualised growth rate of 6.4 percent.

"The key takeaway from the report is that it is indicative of an economy that is bouncing back sharply with the help of stimulus payments and reopening activity that has been catalyzed by Covid vaccines," said analyst Patrick O'Hare at Briefing.com.

Meanwhile, first time unemployment claims fell to a new pandemic-era low of 553,000 last week.

That helped US stocks jump higher at the start of trading, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite striking new record highs.

Those gains diminished as the morning wore on however, while European stocks also giving up gains to end the day lower.

"The US economy is going to enjoy a few more months of tremendous data releases on vaccinations, stimulus checks, and pent-up consumer demand," said analyst Edward Moya at currency trading platform Oanda.

"The second half outlook is up in the air, but for now everyone wants to ride this last big wave of growth," he added.

While previously strong data has fanned investor fears of a spike in inflation that could force central banks to step back from their loose monetary policies, the Fed said Wednesday it was ready to stay the course.

Even as the central bank raised its growth forecasts, Fed chief Jerome Powell soothed inflation concerns by saying the expected jump in prices will be temporary owing to last year's low base of comparison and is not likely to need policy action.

He added it was not yet time to start talking about tapering its vast bond-buying programme that has pumped trillions into the financial system.

The upbeat mood was helped by forecast-beating earnings reports overnight from Apple and Facebook, two of Wall Street's biggest hitters, who essentially saw their profits double in the first quarter.

That came after a similar strong release by Google.

The three companies, along with Amazon, are among tech titans that have thrived as the pandemic accelerated a shift to working, learning, shopping and socialising online.

South Korean giant Samsung also said Thursday that its net profit jumped by almost half in the first three months.

Meanwhile, the price of a tonne of copper crossed the $10,000 level on Thursday for the first time since February 2011 thanks to strong demand in China and the weak dollar.

The industrial metal is seen as an indicator for the general health of the economy by market analysts, which have dubbed it Dr. Copper.

Its price has risen by more than a quarter since the start of the year as the global economy begins to shake off the Covid-19 pandemic.

- Key figures around 1530 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP less than 0.1 percent at 33,843.91

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,996.71

London - FTSE 100: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 6,961.48 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.9 percent at 15,154.20 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 6,302.57 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.8 percent at 29,303.26 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,474.90 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2116 from $1.2091 at 2130 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3953 from $1.3913

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.83 pence from 86.90 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.90 yen from 108.70 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.4 percent at $68.19 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.2 percent at $64.61 per barrel

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