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Stocks gain on strong economic data

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A pedestrian walks past an electronic quotation board displaying Japanese companies’ stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on March 24, 2021. (Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP)

Global stock markets rose Friday as a forecast-beating US jobs report bolstered the economic outlook and soothed recent worries over rising coronavirus infections and new restrictions in Europe.

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London, Paris and Frankfurt extended a global rally heading into the weekend, buoyed by upbeat UK retail data and strong German business sentiment.

Oil prices were higher at the end of a rollercoaster week after a massive container ship ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important shipping channels.

“Economic recovery optimism is boosting equity indices higher as we head towards the weekend,” said OANDA analyst Sophie Griffiths.

“Better-than-forecast US initial jobless claims, rebounding UK retail sales and stronger-than-expected German business sentiment are boosting” markets, she added.

However, long-running concerns over inflation remain in placed, with China-US tensions also back in the narrative.

New York’s three main indexes enjoyed gains after data showed US unemployment claims last week came in below 700,000 for the first time since the pandemic emerged early last year, reinforcing hope that the world’s top economy is on the mend.

In Asia, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Mumbai and Taipei each added more than one percent.

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden gave his first news conference and promised that 200 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine would be administered in his first 100 days.

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His pledge lifted hopes that strict containment measures could be gradually lifted, allowing life to return to a semblance of normality.

But that has investors fearing a huge consumer spending splurge, which along with Biden’s recently passed $1.9 trillion stimulus could fuel inflation and force the Federal Reserve to tighten ultra-loose monetary policies that have underpinned a year-long markets rally.

Europe’s virus, vaccine woes
Traders are also tracking developments in Europe, whose leaders are struggling to get vaccination programmes rolling to stem another wave of infections.

Germany and France are among the countries that have come up with new containment measures, raising concerns the eurozone will take longer to emerge from the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

Europe’s woes have weighed on volatile oil markets but crude — which earlier this month struck a 14-month high, returning to pre-pandemic levels — moved higher on Friday, having shed more than four percent on Thursday.

– Key figures around 1330 GMT –
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 6,716.10 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.8 percent at 14,739.11

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.5 percent at 5,979.95

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EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.6 percent at 3,854.60

New York – Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 32,780.17

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.6 percent at 29,176.70 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.6 percent at 28,336.43 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.6 percent at 3,418.33 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1786 from $1.1764 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3789 from $1.3734

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.48 pence from 85.66 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.76 yen from 109.19 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 3.2 percent at $60.42 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.9 percent at $63.73 per barrel

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