World markets churn higher after the Dow logs another close

A trader works at the Frankfurt stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, February 22, 2022. REUTERS/Timm Reichert
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BANGKOK — World markets powered higher on Friday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to another record close on excitement that the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates several times next year.

Germany’s DAX advanced 0.6% to 16,849.10 and the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.4% at 7,604.01. Britain’s FTSE 100 edged less than 0.1% higher, to 7,650.99.

The futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow were up 0.2%. Oil prices also gained.

Hong Kong led Asia’s gains with property developers jumping after some Chinese cities eased buying restrictions.

The Hang Seng surged 2.4% to 16,792.19, but the Shanghai Composite index fell back, losing 0.6% to 2,942.56.

Troubled developer Country Garden’s shares jumped 5.1%, while China Evergrande gained 3.5% and Sino Ocean Holding surged 5.7%.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported that factory output rose 6.6% in November and retail sales were up more than 10%, glimmers of improvement for the economy after the post-COVID recovery faded much more quickly than expected.

However, investments in property weakened further, indicating that the crisis over excessive debt in that industry is far from resolved.

“Our cautious conclusion from all of this is that China’s recovery is ongoing. But it still looks narrowly based and vulnerable to any further worsening in the real estate sector,” ING Economics said in a research note.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.9% to 32,970.55 and the Kospi in Seoul added 0.8% to 2,563.56. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.9% to 7,442.70.

Bangkok’s SET climbed 0.7% and the Sensex in India was up 1%.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 gained 0.3% to pull within 1.6% of its all-time high set early last year. The Dow gained 0.4% and the Nasdaq climbed 0.2%.

Stocks have been broadly shooting higher since October on hopes that inflation has cooled enough for the Federal Reserve to not only stop its market-rattling hikes to interest rates but to even begin considering cutting them. Those hopes strengthened Wednesday after the Fed held its main interest rate steady and said the federal funds rate is likely at or near its peak.

Lower interest rates can goose prices for investments and relax the pressure on the economy and financial system. But a reversal by the Fed is not guaranteed: One threat is that the economy stays too hot, which would keep upward pressure on inflation and could force it to keep rates high for longer than expected.

A couple of reports Thursday indicated the U.S. economy may be stronger than economists had forecast. One showed American shoppers spent more at retailers in November than October, when economists were forecasting a decline. Another report said fewer U.S. workers applied for jobless benefits last week, a signal of a resilient job market.

In other trading early Friday, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 22 cents to $71.80 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped $2 a barrel to $71.58 on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 23 cents to $76.84 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar fell to 141.73 Japanese yen from 141.84 yen. The euro felt to $1.0964 from $1.0997.

Source: AP