Global stocks near all-time highs despite Greek drama

April 17
5:07 AM 2015

Global equities were set for their third straight weekly gain on Friday, hovering near fresh all-time highs as cheap central bank cash kept buoying markets and offset fears that Greece may run out of money as debt repayments loom.

The possibility that Athens might not be able to meet payments to the International Monetary Fund - which could mean default and eventually an exit from the euro zone - has pushed up Greek bond yields but sparked few ripple effects globally.

A U.S. interest rate hike in the near term is now seen as less likely after a recent run of lackluster U.S. economic data that sent the dollar down for a fourth straight day on Friday to near a one-week low.

At the same time, lingering worries about upcoming corporate earnings reports in the United States have been offset by corporate share buybacks, according to analysts and investors.

"The equity market does appear to have looked through the weakness in economic data and earnings with extraordinary aplomb," said Sean Darby, global equity strategist at Jefferies, in a note to clients.

"(U.S.) share buybacks have become a much more important driver for stock prices in the short-run as earnings-per-share growth wanes."

General Electric (GE.N) is expected to report results before the start of trading on Friday. U.S. consumer inflation data is also due, and may reinforce the view that a near-term rise in rates is less likely.

The MSCI All-Country World index .MIWD00000PUS was up 0.17 percent at 4.46 a.m. EDT, near all-time highs hit earlier this week, with European and Asian equities slipping slightly but still near multi-year peaks. The Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC surged 2.6 percent, set for a 6 percent weekly rise.

German 10-year yields hit a new all-time low of 0.073 percent, creeping closer to zero, even as Greece sounded a mix of defiance and willingness to compromise with its international creditors on reforms required to unlock more loans. Greek yields and shares were slightly higher.

Emerging market stocks hit a new seven-month high and headed for their third consecutive weekly gain, helped by expectations that a U.S. rate hike was further away than once thought.

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart, a voting member of the Fed's rate-setting committee this year, said the recent "murky" run of U.S. data has him leaning against a June interest rate hike. Lockhart quickly added he was confident the economy would remain on track.

Comments from Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren also struck dovish tones.

The rate-rise uncertainty left gold prices facing their second straight weekly drop, while London tin capitulated to more than five-year lows as growing supply from Myanmar and torpid demand punished prices.

Brent crude oil prices fell on Friday, ending a run of rallies earlier in the week, after OPEC said that its output surged in March, adding to a global glut.

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