World stock markets rally as Omicron fears ease – business live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “World stock markets rally as Omicron fears ease – business live” was written by Graeme Wearden, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 7th December 2021 16.55 UTC

European stock markets best day in a year

Stock markets across Europe have racked up their best day in over a year.

Optimism that the Omicron variant will be less severe than initially feared drove up markets across the region, with the pan-European Stoxx 600 closing 2.5% higher.

That’s its best day since 9th November 2020, when Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their coronavirus vaccine was 90% effective in trials.

Germany and France both saw strong gains, up around 2.9%, while the Amsterdam index surged by 3.5%.

Mining stocks, tech companies, and consumer-focused firms all had a strong day.

European stock markets, December 07 2021
European stock markets, December 07 2021 Photograph: Refinitiv

David Madden, market analyst at Equiti Capital, says:

Traders continue to be bullish as the fear surrounding the omicron variant of the coronavirus continue to fall, and that has pushed up equity markets

Commodities are in high demand today as the overall risk-on sentiment is boosting oil as well as industrial metals such as silver, platinum, and copper. Gold is up today too, and it is remarkable the yellow metal is rising in the face of a firmer US dollar as well as bullish stock markets.

Britain’s FTSE 100 index has clawed back all its omicron losses.

The blue-chip index closed 107.6 points higher tonight at 7340 points, a three-week high.

In another development, scientists have identified a “stealth” version of the Omicron variant which cannot be detected with the routine tests that public health officials are using to track its spread around the world.

The stealth variant has many mutations in common with standard Omicron, but it lacks a particular genetic change that allows lab-based PCR tests to be used as a rough and ready means of flagging up probable cases.

Here’s the details:

Risk appetite is improving as evidence incrementally supports the case that the omicron variant will be less damaging to the economy than feared at the end of November, says Neil Wilson of Markets.com.

Although bad news about Omicron could still emerge, and restrictions could hit growth, investors are more confident the new variant won’t be as bad as first feared.

Fears about America’s central bank wrapping up its stimulus programme more quickly have also eased. Wilson writes:

Even though the Federal Reserve is in a very different place to this time last year, there is enough strength and depth and liquidity at the moment to absorb 5-7% drawdowns without too much fuss.

And whilst omicron news is risk-on right now – risk-on from oversold levels that is – we shouldn’t ignore the impact of a central bank.

Yesterday’s decision by the People’s Bank of China to cut the reserve requirement ratio by 50 basis points amounted to no small amount of easing, and clearly boosted risk appetite across the piece.

That’s helped the FTSE 100 back to its pre-Omicron levels this afternoon, as this chart shows:

The FTSE 100 index
The FTSE 100 index Photograph: Markets.com

World stock markets rally as Omicron fears ease

World stock markets are rallying as concerns about the potential severity of the Omicron variant ease.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average has jumped by 521 points, or 1.5%, in early trading back to 35,748 points. That’s close to its levels before Thanksgiving, just before the emergence of Omicron spooked markets.

The broader S&P 500 index has gained 1.7%, with technology stocks, travel companies and oil producers all higher.

European markets are pushing higher too, with Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC up around 2.5%. That follows gains in Asia-Pacific markets earlier, where Japan’s Nikkei gained 1.9%, with strong Chinese import figures also lifting the mood.

The FTSE 100 index of blue-chip shares in London now up 98 points at 7331, recovering all its losses after the discovery of the omicron variant rocked markets in late November.

The FTSE 100 this year
The FTSE 100 this year Photograph: Refinitiv

Mining companies lead the FTSE 100 risers, benefitting from optimism about the global recovery. China’s moves to boost its slowing economy, and to pump 1.2 trillion yuan ($188 billion) into the economy by letting banks hold less capital, is also lifting stocks.

Commodities giant Anglo American has jumped 6.5%, with BHP Group gaining 5.6%. Conference organiser Informa, which would be disrupted by lockdowns and travel restrictions, has risen 4%.

UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, told ministers today the early indications are that the Omicron variant appears to be more transmissible than Delta. But, early hospital data from South Africa suggest it could result in less severe illness than previous waves.

The Financial Times explains:

Early data from the Steve Biko and Tshwane District Hospital Complex in South Africa’s capital Pretoria, which is at the centre of the outbreak, showed that on December 2 only nine of the 42 patients on the Covid-19 ward, all of whom were unvaccinated, were being treated for the virus and were in need of oxygen.

The remainder of the patients had tested positive but were asymptomatic and being treated for other conditions.

Oil is continuing to strengthen too, with Brent crude up 2.5% today at almost $75 per barrel.

Brad Bechtel of investment bank Jefferies says anxiety over the latest variant is dropping:

Its still a little early to fully shrug off Omicron fully, which is why governments and markets are tip toeing, not running, towards this conclusion, but it is starting to feel a little more constructive again for global growth.

We probably won’t know for sure about Omicron until after the holidays so jumping on now is definitely early to the theme, but the theme is gaining some momentum in the past 48hrs.

British drugmaker GSK also reassured investors, reporting today that its antibody-based COVID-19 therapy with US partner Vir Biotechnology is effective against all mutations of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, citing new data from early-stage studies.

It looks like investors have made up their minds about Omicron, says Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at Think Markets.

After careful consideration, they think it is probably no more dangerous than the Delta variant of coronavirus and that preventative lockdowns and restrictions that we have seen will soon ease. Another major economic shock will thus be avoided….

Investors have been relieved to find out that Omicron hasn’t yet prompted a big rise in hospitalisations and deaths, while some pharmaceuticals (e.g., GSK) have revealed they have come up with treatment against the new strain.

So, there’s hope – hope that at worst, Omicron may be just as transmissible as the common cold, but no more dangerous than some of the other variants of Covid and that current vaccinations are effective against it.

US trade deficit narrows in October as exports rebound

America’s trade deficit has narrowed to a six-month low, thanks to a rebound in exports.

The US trade gap fell to $67.1bn, from September’s record high of $81.4bn, driven by a rise in shipments to the rest of the world.

In October, exports rose 8.1% to $223.6bn while imports were up a much smaller 0.9% to $290.7bn.

Another encouraging sign for the global economy, after this morning’s jump in China’s imports.

Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics, says the data suggest supply chain problems are improving.

The 8.1% m/m surge in exports in October means that net trade is on course to add about 1% point to fourth-quarter GDP growth, which we think will be 6.5% annualised, and provides more evidence that global supply chain bottlenecks are easing.

Earlier hurricane-related disruption also unwound, with oil exports rebounding by more than 20% month-on-month.

Car exports also rose strongly as the easing global chip shortage allowed plants to reopen across North America, he adds.

European gas prices jump as US weighs more sanctions on Russia

European gas prices have jumped today, ahead of a crunch virtual summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

The US president will warn his Russian counterpart to expect severe economic penalties, including banking sanctions, should he invade Ukraine.

Biden has a wide range of punitive measures at his disposal, including a range of tough economic measures such as sanctions on Russian corporations and banks, or oligarchs and their families. A Ukraine invasion could also lead to the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Benchmark Dutch front-month gas jumped as much as 7.6%, on concerns of disruption to Russian gas supplies to Europe.

The British wholesale gas price for Q1 2022 rose by 6.4%, while day ahead prices are up 8%, close to their highest level in two months.

Goldman Sachs CEO expects higher inflation

Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon has predicted that inflation will be higher for a period of time, but doesn’t expect a repeat of the cost rises seen in the 1970s.

In an interview with CNBC, Solomon says people have lost the historical perspective of how markets look, and what is normal, after living with inflation below trend for a long time.

That could change, he says:

“There’s a reasonable chance that we’re going to have inflation above trend for a period of time but that doesn’t mean it has to be like the 1970s. It could be, [but] doesn’t have to be.

Inflation hurts asset prices, and it slows down your ability to make money with almost any asset, Solomon added, citing the 1970s as a tough time to make money in the markets.

“You’ve got to be cautious and manage your risk appropriately.”

Solomon also told CNBC that he doesn’t own bitcoin or ethereum himself, but is “a big believer” in the digitisation and disruption in the financial services space.

I think bitcoin is really not the key thing.

The key thing is how can blockchain, and other technologies that are not developed yet, accelerate the pace of the digitisation of the way financial services are delivered.”

The UAE’s economy will get a ‘massive boost’ from its move to a four-and-a-half day week, and a Saturday-Sunday weekend, says Nigel Green, the CEO of Dubai-headquartered deVere Group.

He reckons it’ll encourage businesses to relocate to the emirates.

“The UAE, and in particular Dubai and Abu Dhabi are already recognised as two of the most powerful business and financial hubs in the world by international investors who are lured by the incredible possibilities offered in terms of finance, trade and commerce, plus the famous ‘can do’ attitude and the low tax environment in these destinations.

“The transition to a four and a half day working week which now aligns with most major economies around the world will prove to be another significant ‘pull’ for international corporations that are currently based elsewhere.”

In the energy sector, US activist investor Elliott Management has ratcheted up the pressure on UK firm SSE, with a public attack on the company’s energy transition strategy and a call for two new independent directors.

Iin a letter addressed to the SSE chairman, Sir John Manzoni, Elliott said the firm’s investment strategy lacked ambition and called on the company to provide a detailed and credible plan “to address investor concerns around SSE’s corporate governance, its ability to fund its growth in the long term, and its persistent undervaluation”.

The hedge fund attacked the underperformance of the company and its share price during the eight years it has been run by Alistair Phillips-Davies as chief executive, in its latest campaign for change at a UK-listed company.

The FTSE 100 company has rejected the idea from the New York-based hedge fund – which has built a stake in SSE in recent months – that it should spin off its renewables arm. On Tuesday, it issued a further swift rebuff of Elliott’s demands.

Here’s the full story:

The logos of French utility groups Veolia Environnement and Suez.
The logos of French utility groups Veolia Environnement and Suez. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

UK councils and taxpayers could face higher prices and lower service quality if the €13bn (£11.1bn) merger between French waste and water management giants Veolia and Suez goes through, Britain’s competition watchdog fears.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said the tie-up, which was announced earlier this year, could lead to a loss of competition in the supply of key waste and recycling services.

Chief executive Andrea Coscelli explained:

“Councils spend hundreds of millions of pounds on waste management services.

“Any loss of competition in this market could lead to higher prices for local authorities, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill, and reduced innovation to achieve net-zero targets.

“Everyone in the UK uses waste and recycling services in some way; it is therefore vital that this deal is subject to more detailed scrutiny if our concerns aren’t addressed.”

Veolia and Suez are two of the biggest suppliers of waste management services to councils and businesses in the UK, including waste collection, composting services, incineration and landfill sites.

The CMA said it will refer the deal for an in-depth probe if Veolia and Suez do not put forward suitable proposals to address its concerns within five working days.

UEA to embrace 4.5 day working week, in weekend shift

Dubai, United Arab Emirates,
Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates Photograph: Alexander Miridonov/Kommersant/REX/Shutterstock

The United Arab Emirates government is bringing in a four-and-a-half day working week, as part of a shift of the national weekend.

The UAE’s working week currently runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday set as the national weekend. Under the new plan, the weekend for government bodies will move to Saturday and Sunday, in line with Western schedules, and begin at noon on Fridays.

The move, announced by state news agency WAM on Tuesday, will come into effect on January 1, 2022, and could be followed by educational establishments and private sector firms.

The Abu Dhabi government media office said the transition is:

“in line with the UAE’s vision to enhance its global competitiveness across economic and business sectors, and to keep pace with global developments.”

Under the new model, employees will have to complete an eight-hour workday from Monday to Thursday but are only expected to work only for 4.5 hours on Friday.

Government employees will also be allowed to choose “flexible work or work-from-home options” on Fridays. Friday sermons and prayers will be held at 1:15pm, according to news service Al Jazeera.

Updated

Wall Street is on track to open higher, after a strong day yesterday as concerns about the Omicron variant eased.

The tech-focused Nasdaq is up around 1.8% in the futures market, with chipmakers and big tech firms set to rally.

Reuters has more details:

Some high-flying technology shares have been battered in recent days as investors priced in an aggressive tightening of U.S. monetary policy despite concerns about the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Tesla Inc rose 3.3% in premarket trading after dropping into bear market territory on an intraday basis on Monday, falling more than 20% from its record high close hit on November 4th.

Intel Corp surged 8.1% after revealing plans to take Mobileye public in the United States in mid-2022, a deal which could value the Israeli unit at more than $50 billion, according to a source.

South Africa’s economy contracted 1.5% in the last quarter, as the pandemic, supply chain problems, and July’s riots all hit growth.

Agriculture, construction, mining, transport and communications, manufacturing and trade all shrank in the July-September quarter.

The economy was disrupted by rioting and looting by supporters of Jacob Zuma, after the former president handed himself in to serve a 15-month jail term (he was then released in September due to ill health).

The civil disorder claimed 337 lives, the government said in July, with hundreds of shops looted, factories destroyed, warehouses razed, clinics vandalised and ports disabled.

German investor confidence has been hit by the rise in Covid-19 cases this autumn, and the supply chain bottlenecks that have hit the economy this year.

The ZEW economic research institute’s economic sentiment index has fallen to 29.9 this month, from 31.7 points in November, showing investors are less upbeat about future prospects.

ZEW’s index for current conditions dropped into negative territory for the first time since June, falling to -7.4 from 12.5, as the surge in infections and the lockdown on unvaccinated citizens hits the economy.

ZEW President Achim Wambach said.

The German economy is suffering noticeably from the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Persisting supply bottlenecks are weighing on production and retail trade. The decline in economic expectations shows that hopes for much stronger growth in the next six months are fading. Especially the earnings expectations of export-oriented and consumer-related industries are assessed more negatively.

Today’s jump in industrial production could have lifted spirits, except German factories reported a drop in new orders yesterday….

German industrial production has returned to growth, despite supply-chain bottlenecks hampering output.

Total industrial output, covering manufacturing, energy and construction, jumped by 2.8% during October, faster than expected, after a 0.5% drop in September.

Encouragingly, manufacturing output grew by 3.2%, including a 12.6% jump in the production of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, where semiconductor shortages have hampered factories for months.

Updated

UK grocery inflation at 17-month high as shoppers snap up Christmas food

Friends enjoying a Christmas dinner together

Inflation is pushing up the cost of some Christmas dinner staples, but that isn’t deterring shoppers from filling their baskets with festive fare.

UK grocery prices rose by 3.2% in the latest four weeks, market researcher Kantar reports, which is the highest rate of inflation since June 2020.

The average cost of a meal for four is now £27.48, which is an increase of 3.4% compared with last year, driven by pricier turkeys, sprouts and parsnips.

Kantar’s calculation of the cost of Christmas dinner
Kantar’s calculation of the cost of Christmas dinner Photograph: Kantar

Despite the rise in prices, UK grocery sales are staying strong, Kantar reports.

Grocery spending in the last 12 weeks was 7% than in 2019 (although 3.8% lower than last year, when England was in its second pandemic lockdown in November).

But, the emergence of the Omicron variant could change shopping patterns, says Fraser McKevitt, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight:

Recent concerns over the next stage of the pandemic may see consumers change the way they shop in the next few weeks. Our excitement about Christmas this year has been slightly tempered as news of the Omicron COVID-19 variant has emerged.

Online grocery sales fell by 12.5% in the four weeks to late November, as we compare against more orders last year during the second lockdown. As concerns grow over rising case numbers, we expect some people will prefer to shop online again to limit their visits to stores.

Full story: UK house prices rise at fastest pace in 15 years

UK house prices grew at the fastest pace in 15 years over the past three months, with the average home valued at £20,000 more than this time last year, according to Halifax.

Prices rose by 3.4% in the quarter to the end of November, which is the highest quarterly rate since late 2006 and brought the average price of a home to a record of £272,992. A shortage of properties on the market, a strong jobs market and competitive mortgage rates were all propping up prices, the lender said.

House prices rose for a fifth month by 1% in November and were 8.2% higher than the same time last year, when the average property cost 252,235. Both the monthly gain and the annual growth rate were the same increases as in October.

Wales remained the UK nation with the fastest house price growth, with annual inflation of 14.8% taking the average price of a home to more than £200,000 for the first time. Northern Ireland also continued to record double-digit annual growth, of 10%, and a typical property cost £169,348. In Scotland, the average price of £191,140 is the most expensive on record, as values rose 8.5% year on year.

European electricity prices are surging again today, with strong demand from chilly homes and offices.

Low wind speeds are forcing energy providers to burn more fossil fuels, points out Bloomberg’s Javier Blas:

Oil higher as omicron worries subside

The oil price has jumped this morning too, with Brent crude up almost 2% at $74.50 per barrel.

That’s its highest point in a week, as traders anticipate that Omicron will not have a severe impact on energy demand.

Brent crude oil price
Brent crude oil price Photograph: Refinitiv

Opec+’s decision last week to keep adding more oil to the market suggests it remains confident about demand, as Naeem Aslam of Think Markets explains:

Oil prices have also started to return to their upward trajectory as concerns regarding the Omicron variant subside. Because cases from the new strain seem to be mild, the likelihood of stricter controls and the execution of lockdowns seem to be minimal. Because of this, the future outlook for oil demand has returned to being positive while oil supply remains tight as economies recuperate from the rock bottom situation witnessed in 2020. The argument for a strong future outlook for oil demand is supported by Saudi Arabia’s, the biggest exporter of crude oil, decision to raise prices for crude oil and OPEC+’s judgment to stick to its plan of pumping 400,000 barrels a day into the markets in January as well.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the US and Iran have stalled once more, implying that markets should not expect Iran to pump any more oil anytime soon. Hence, in the short term, investors should very likely expect oil prices to keep on rising unless we see a sudden uptick in coronavirus cases.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index has hit its highest level since the Omicron tumble over a week ago, up 1.4%.

Technology shares are leading the rally, with the sector up 3.1%. Miners are being lifted by hopes for China’s economy after the People’s Bank of China eased monetary policy yesterday, and firms imported more coal and metal last month.

Updated

Markets shake off Omicron worries

European stock markets have opened higher, as investor’s anxiety over the Omicron variant fades.

The jump in China’s imports in November has also eased concerns about the global economy, lifting stocks.

Britain’s FTSE 100 has jumped by 73 points, or 1%, to 7305 points, only slightly below its levels before Omicron sent markets plunging on 26th November.

The FTSE 100 over the last three months
The FTSE 100 over the last three months Photograph: Refinitiv

Plumbing and heating group Ferguson are leading the risers, up almost 5%, after telling that City that its expectations for this financial year have increased, after a strong performance.

Mining giants – a good gauge of economic optimism – are also rallying, with Anglo American up 3% and Rio Tinto up 2.7%.

Mark Haefele, Chief Investment Officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, says:

“Our base case is that the market focus will shift back toward the positive outlook for economic growth and earnings.

So we think investors should consider whether now is a good opportunity to add some of the winners from global growth that have been most negatively affected in recent days – including the Eurozone, Japan, energy, and financials.”

Updated

Omicron could pull house price inflation down next year.

Uncertainty over the Omicron variant could also cool UK house price inflation, if people become nervous about making major financial decisions.

Graham Cox, founder of the Bristol-based Self-Employed Mortgage Hub, suspects house price rises may reverse very soon.

For starters, the Bank of England meets on December 16th and could well raise interest rates to put a lid on soaring inflation. Throw in the uncertainty around Omicron and there’s every chance of a severe hit to consumer confidence. The property market of 2022 could be the polar opposite of 2021.”

Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor, also warns that the market could start to lose steam.

The housing market is no stranger to the inflationary pressures facing the UK economy with prices up more than £20,000 versus the same period last year. Despite concerns about a softening housing market after the stamp duty holiday ended, house prices have held up, underpinned by rock-bottom interest rates and a shortage of supply.

However, with a potential rise in interest rates and slowdown in economic activity, the housing market could start to cool with growth rates levelling off, particularly if Omicron or other COVID-19 variants weigh on economic output.”

The 1% jump in house prices in November suggests the market shrugged off the end of the stamp duty holiday in September.

But a rise in borrowing costs, perhaps this month or in February 2022, could cool demand.

Rob Peters, director of Altrincham-based Simple Fast Mortgage says the BoE interest rate decision on December 16th will set the tone for next year.

“First-time buyers looking to access the property market may get their Christmas wish early as the ridiculous rise in house prices finally starts to fade. We have already seen buyers’ interest tailing off now that thoughts are moving to festivities and plans for 2022, although the sparse availability of stock continues to support prices.

The proof will be in the December pudding when the Bank of England meets to decide whether to increase interest rates or not. With widespread predictions of an imminent increase to curb rising inflation, December will set the tone for how the property market enters 2022.”

UK house prices
UK house prices Photograph: Halifax

Wales has seen the fastest house price growth of any UK nation or region. Prices jumped 14.8% in the last year, taking the average price through the £200,000 barrier for the first time to £204,148.

Northern Ireland, South West England and North West England all recorded double-digit annual growth.

In London, though, annual inflation was just 1.1%, as the pandemic and the move to homeworking encouraged some people to move out of the capital.

UK house prices by region

UK housing market faces ‘greater uncertainty’

Halifax’s Russell Galley add that price inflation for flats (10.8%) outpaced detached properties (6.6%) in the last year, suggesting demand for larger, less central housing was fading.

This could suggest the ‘race for space’ is becoming less prominent than it was earlier in the pandemic, with industry data also showing the overall number of completed transactions has fallen back since the end of the Stamp Duty holiday.

But, Halifax doesn’t expect house prices to keep rising so fast, given the squeeze on households and possible increases in UK interest rates in the coming months.

Galley says:

Economic confidence may be also be dented by the emergence of the new Omicron virus variant, though it remains far too early to speculate on any long-term impact, given insufficient data at this stage, not to mention the resilience the housing market has already shown in challenging circumstances.

“Leaving aside the direct impact of a possible resurgence in the pandemic for now, we would not expect the current level of house price growth to be sustained next year given that house price to income ratios are already historically high, and household budgets are only likely to come under greater pressure in the coming months.”

Updated

UK house prices grow at fastest in 15 years in last quarter

British house prices grew at the fastest pace in 15 years over the past three months, as the property boom continues to run.

Mortgage lender Halifax has reported that prices rose by 3.4% in the last quarter, which is the highest quarterly rate seen since late 2006.

Prices jumped by 1% in November, which left house price 8.2% higher than a year ago — at a new record high of £272,992.

The average house price has now risen by over £20,000 since this time last year, according to Halifax’s data.

UK house price index

A shortage of properties, and the ‘race for space’ earlier in the pandemic have helped push up house prices since the first lockdowns lifted, with low mortgage rates also helping.

Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, explains:

This is the fifth straight month that average house prices have risen, with typical values up by almost £13,000 since June, and more than £20,000 since this time last year.

On a rolling quarterly basis the uptick in house prices was 3.4%, the strongest gain since the end of 2006, bringing the new average property price up to a record high of £272,992. Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, and the UK first entering lockdown, house prices have risen by £33,816, which equates to £1,691 per month.

The performance of the market continues to be underpinned by a shortage of available properties, a strong labour market and keen competition amongst mortgage providers keeping rates close to historic lows. Those taking their first step onto the property ladder are also playing an important role in driving activity, with annual house price inflation for first-time buyers at 9.1% compared to 8.8% for homemovers.

Updated

China’s policy makers moved to expand support for the nation’s economy today, as a property-market downturn threatens to hamper growth into next year.

My colleague Martin Farrer explains:

China’s politburo has signalled measures to kickstart the faltering economy as the crisis gripping the country’s debt-laden property sector continued to blight prospects for growth.

President Xi Jinping’s senior leadership committee rubber-stamped a plan from the central bank on Monday for more targeted lending to businesses and outlined support for the housing market.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said it would cut the reserves most banks must hold by 0.5 percentage points, releasing another 1.2tn yuan ($188bn) into the economy, the central bank said in a statement.

Leaders had also agreed to “promote the construction of affordable housing, support the commercial housing market and better meet the reasonable housing needs of buyers”, Xinhua state news agency said.

Introduction: China’s import surge cheers markets

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

There’s a risk-on mood in the markets today, after China’s exports and imports grew faster than expected in November.

China’s imports unexpectedly surged almost 32% year-on-year to about $254bn, as firms scrambled to restock depleted commodities like coal ahead of the holidays at the turn of the year.

Exports growth slowed, but was also stronger than forecast – up 22% to almost $326bn.

The data suggest that external demand surged ahead of the year-end holidays, and that domestic production picked up as China’s power crunch eased — just as the Evergrande crisis casts a shadow over the slowing property sector.

Adam Cole of RBC Capital Markets says the strong import growth is “a positive sign on the strength of domestic demand.”

Michelle Lam, greater China economist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong, says local stimulus measures also helped.

“Exports picked up in line with seasonality in November and suggest still pretty solid momentum in external demand.

“The surprise in import growth was driven by a rebound in commodity volume, probably reflecting improving infrastructure capex demand as local governments stepped up stimulus toward the turn of the year.”

Imports of metal and energy both soared, with coal imports at their highest level this year, natural gas imports the strongest since January, and crude purchases at a three-month high. Back in October, Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, called for “all-out” efforts to keep people warm this winter, in the global scramble for energy.

The news helped to boost stocks. Japan’s Nikkei is up 1.9%, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan has jumped 1.4%. It’s on track for its biggest jump in two months, after dropping to a one–year low on Monday.

European markets are set to open higher today, after a rally yesterday which saw the FTSE 100 gain 1.5%.

We also get new trade data from the US, and German factory output and investor confidence data.

The agenda

  • Today: Eurozone finance ministers hold an Ecofin meeting
  • 7am GMT: Halifax house price index for November
  • 7am GMT: German industrial output for October
  • 10am GMT: ZEW index of German economic sentiment
  • 1.30pm GMT: US trade balance for October

Updated

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