GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks at new peaks on stimulus hopes, dollar slips

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks at new peaks on stimulus hopes, dollar slips
Credit: © Reuters.

(Adds close of U.S. markets)

* Nasdaq, S&P 500, Dow industrials scale new highs

* Growth stocks lead rally, reversal of gains this year

* Spanish, Italian bond yields at highest since November

* Oil prices settle little changed, gold steady

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, Jan 21 (Reuters) - World stock markets racked up record highs on Thursday and the dollar slipped as investors bet major stimulus from new U.S. President Joe Biden and unswerving global central bank support would cushion the coronavirus' damage and bolster growth.

The euro EUR= /FRX edged up as the European Central Bank's first policy meeting of the year brought no change to its supportive policies. stocks reached new highs overnight and all three major Wall Street indexes touched record peaks. MSCI's global index of stock performance in 50 countries .MIWD00000PUS gained 0.2%.

But European stocks lost steam at the close, weighed down by oil and real estate shares, while the ECB warned a surge in COVID-19 infections posed a risk to the euro zone's recovery, a warning that is causing U.S. investor angst too.

The pan-European STOXX 600 stock index .STOXX ended flat after rising as much as 0.8% earlier in the session.

Energy majors BP BP.L , Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L and Total TOTF.PA each fell more than 2% as oil prices slipped after industry data showed a surprise increase in U.S. crude inventories. O/R

While the benchmark S&P 500 and tech-centric Nasdaq moved higher, declining shares slightly outnumbered gainers. The S&P 500 posted 24 new 52-week highs and the Nasdaq Composite recorded 215 new highs. The Dow edged lower at the close.

This year's early trend of investors piling into cyclical stocks has reverted to backing large-cap growth stocks that led last year's rally post-pandemic, said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.

"It's a reverse of what's happened year-to-date through Tuesday. Today and yesterday were decidedly a growth market, especially big-cap tech plus," Ghriskey said.

"There's concern about distribution of the vaccine."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 12.37 points, or 0.04%, to 31,176.01. The S&P 500 .SPX gained 1.22 points, or 0.03%, to 3,853.07 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 73.67 points, or 0.55%, to 13,530.92.

Treasury yields were mostly higher and the yield curve steepened after U.S. labor market data showed new claims for jobless benefits, while elevated, declined modestly last week.

The data eased concerns that the U.S. labor market could deteriorate further, said Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Capital Management in Philadelphia.

"Having a flat or slightly improved data point for the second week of January helps argue that the trend is not toward rising claims," LeBas said.

Italian and Spanish benchmark bond yields rose to their highest since early November, a move analysts attributed largely to the ECB saying it may not use the firepower of its pandemic-geared bond purchases in full.

The ECB kept its deposit rate unchanged at -0.5% and maintained the overall quota for bond purchases at 1.85 trillion euros, as expected.

The dollar index =USD fell 0.369%, with the euro EUR= up 0.51% to $1.2166, amid expectations of a Biden stimulus push and after the Bank of Japan left its policies unchanged overnight.

The Japanese yen JPY= strengthened 0.05% versus the greenback at 103.50 per dollar.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury US10YT=RR note rose more than 1 basis point to 1.1041%.

In commodity markets, oil prices eased on an unexpected rise in U.S. crude stockpiles, though hopes for an economic revival kept losses in check.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 settled down 18 cents at $53.13 a barrel, while Brent LCOc1 futures rose 2 cents to settle at $56.10 a barrel.

Industrial metals such as copper , nickel and iron ore all rose, while spot gold XAU= slid 0.1% to $1,864.66 per ounce. GOL/

U.S. gold futures GCv1 settled little changed at $1,865.90 per ounce.

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