London, Feb 19 (AFP/APP): Bitcoin hit a new record high on Friday and surpassed $1 trillion in market capitalisation, while European and US equities also pushed higher.
The digital unit zoomed to another record at $54,182, meaning that the combined value of all bitcoin now stands at $1.002 trillion according to data provider Coinmarketcap.com. Oil prices sank meanwhile, as some companies began slowly restarting operations in the US producer state of Texas, where refineries have been hammered by a cold snap. Meanwhile, data showed that the eurozone’s economy is being hit hard by a new wave of lockdowns but the damage will be less severe than last year’s virus-induced crash.
The closely watched PMI index compiled by IHS Markit rose to 48.1 points in February from 47.8 points in January, closer to the 50-point level which would have indicated growth. However, businesses also expressed confidence that vaccinations would allow economic activity to rebound in the coming months, IHS Markit added.
‘Seen as a positive’
Markets shrugged off the data because a recession was already expected owing to Covid-19 restrictions, according to CMC Markets analyst David Madden.
“The eurozone (economy) contracted by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter — and the first quarter is expected to be even worse on account of (coronavirus) restrictions, so a recession is priced in,” Madden told AFP. “At the moment — if things do not get any worse — that is seen as a positive.”
Both Frankfurt and Paris added 0.8 percent, as investors digested upbeat German and French manufacturing figures. “The PMIs made for interesting reading (but) Germany’s manufacturing sector is powering ahead — with the fastest expansion rate in three years,” Madden noted.
Sterling tops $1.40
In Britain, London stocks stayed in positive territory even though the pound rose above $1.40 for the first time in almost three years and retail sales dropped sharply in January as the country entered another lockdown. Sterling breached the symbolic level for the first time since April 2018, reaching $1.4036. The currency was propelled by a vaccination drive that has boosted economic recovery hopes and eclipsed news of a lockdown-driven slump in retail sales, dealers said.
A strong pound nonetheless weighs on share prices of London-listed multinationals that earn in dollars. The latest UK PMI came in at 49.8, close to the benchmark 50- point level, and was a major improvement from January’s reading of 41.2, which analysts took as a sign the British economy was stabilising. Wall Street stocks rebounded Friday, buoyed by positive news about coronavirus vaccines and after a top Biden administration official reiterated support for a massive economic relief package.
In comments late Thursday Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen once again made the case for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package. Yellen also downplayed inflation concerns which have shaken Wall Street investors this week, and was backed by IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath who dismissed fears about rising prices saying they are “nothing to be concerned about.”
Asian equities diverged however as the region mulled the possibility that a longer-term global economic recovery could indeed fuel inflation.
Key figures around 1630 GMT
- New York – Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 31,635.95 points
- EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.9 percent at 3,713.46
- London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 6,624.02 (close)
- Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.8 percent at 13,993.23 (close)
- Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.8 percent at 5,773.55 (close)
- Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.7 percent at 30,017.92 (close)
- Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 30,644.73 (close)
- Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 3,696.17 (close)
- Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2138 from $1.2092 at 2200 GMT
- Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4021 from $1.3975
- Euro/pound: UP at 86.56 pence from 86.53 pence
- Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.54 yen from 105.69 yen
- Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.5 percent at $63.45 per barrel
- West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.2 percent at $59.77
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