After trading for most of the day in or around break even European markets went on another ramp higher as Fed Chairman reiterated comments from senior FOMC voting members that reinforced the prospect that we remain quite some way from the likelihood of an imminent program of the Fed adjusting the pace of their current stimulus program. His comments in prepared remarks that "premature tightening risks slowing or ending the recovery" sent the DAX to new record highs and the FTSE100 ever closer to its all-time highs at 6,950.
These comments would appear to have knocked any talk of tapering on the head for the time being, or at least until the next set of good payroll numbers, where we will no doubt go through this particular dance again.
In the Q&A to Congress the Fed Chairman didn't really offered anything particularly insightful over and above what we already know. The US economic recovery remains uneven.
The best performers today have included the partially state owned banks of Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group after the new UK financial regulation authority gave the two banks are clean bill of health with respect to their respective capital positions.
Also doing well Chilean copper miner Antofagasta is a top riser as copper prices enjoy a positive session hitting their highest levels in over a month. Anglo American is also enjoying somewhat of a rebound after coming to an agreement with trade unions over job cut measures at Amplatts, its South African platinum operation
On the downside chip maker and Apple supplier ARM Holdings is on the slide as investors wake up to the fairly high valuation the company has, and the demand outlook and headwinds in attempting to maintain that valuation.
US markets opened higher ahead of the latest testimony of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to Congress on the outlook for the US economy.
As far as earnings are concerned the picture continues to remain mixed with general retailer Target reporting a 29% fall in profits for Q1while revenues also fell back as well. Expectations had been for profits of $0.95c a share, but came in at $0.77c. The company also lowered its full year guidance for 2013.
Sliding same store sales in the US and Europe also hit Staples numbers as profits came in below expectations for Q1, as the company absorbed a 9.2% decline in revenues.
DIY retailer Lowe's also appeared to be feeling the pinch as it reported a rise in Q1 earnings of 2.5%, and revenues that came in inline. Market expectations had been somewhat higher though.
On the currencies front the euro
initially outperformed largely as a result of some negative sentiment surrounding the US dollar and the pound.
The pound suffered after retail sales for April slid sharply by 1.3%, well below expectations though this is likely to have been as a result of the unseasonably cold weather and the fact that Easter was in March this year. Food sales were also lower for the same reasons while public sector borrowing came in at £8bn, better than expected and an improvement on the £12.6bn in March.
The MPC minutes didn't contain any surprises with the 6-3 split to hold pat on current QE remaining intact, while the weakness in the pound suggests that the markets are betting that we could well see this split start to move towards a looser monetary policy.
The US dollar has enjoyed a turbulent afternoon dropping sharply initially after Fed chairman Bernanke's testimony to Congress as he reiterated that the risks to an early end to stimulus were too great and risked derailing the recovery. His response to Q&A though saw these gains reverse as he refused to rule out the possibility of tapering asset purchases this year if the labour market were to improve.
The Japanese yen has continued its slide hitting multi year lows against the euro, and the US dollar pushing above the previous levels above the 103.20 level against the US dollar.
The Swiss franc also slid sharply after Swiss National Bank chief Jordan reiterated the central banks openness to raising the ceiling on the EURCHF rate while also keeping the option of negative rates on the table. There was nothing new in any of this but it does highlight the determination of the SNB to keep a lid on the franc.
Gold and silver prices initially continued their rebounds after this week's earlier sharp sell-off as market participants try to second guess what will come out from Bernanke and the latest Fed minutes later today. Gold briefly poked its head above the $1,400 level in the wake of the post Bernanke prepared remarks, but slid back sharply in response to the Q&A response that suggested we could see tapering as early as this year.
Oil prices on the other hand continue to be weighed down by concerns about economic growth and rising inventories, after the American Petroleum Institute reported a fourth straight week of rises. Rising China stockpiles have also weighed on Brent prices.
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