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FTSE: Wall Street and European stocks push higher as IMF boss warns of coming shocks

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a news conference at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a news conference at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press)

Wall Street took its lead from the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) and European stocks on Thursday despite Kristalina Georgieva, the boss of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), warning governments to prepare for the next shock to their economies with fiscal consolidation.

She said: "In a world of more frequent shocks we know we will be tested again.”

Quoting former British prime minster Winston Churchill, she added: “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.”

Her comments come during a press conference in Washington as part of its spring meetings.

  • London’s benchmark index was 0.4% higher by the end of the day

  • Germany's DAX (^GDAXI) rose 0.5% and the CAC (^FCHI) in Paris headed 0.7% into the green

  • The pan-European STOXX 600 (^STOXX) was up 0.3%

  • Wall Street opened higher amid news that the US jobs market remained tight

  • EasyJet cuts winter losses by more than £50m

  • The pound (GBPUSD=X) was up 0.2% against the dollar at 1.2478

  • Bitcoin price falls ahead of halving as ETF inflows slow

Elsewhere, the US jobs market remained tight with the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits coming in unchanged at 212,000 last week – a historically low level.

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It also came as a string of strong corporate results offset news that sales of electric cars across the European Union tumbled by over 11% last month.

New figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) reported this morning that new car registrations fell for the first time this year in March, dropping by 5.2% to around one million units.

Investors cheered news from the likes of easyJet (EZJ.L) which boosted other airline stocks after it cut losses despite taking a £40m hit from the Middle East conflict.

Follow along for live updates throughout the day:

LIVE COVERAGE IS OVER21 updates
  • Blog close and recap

    Well that's all from us today, thanks for following along. Be sure to join us again tomorrow for more.

    Here's a quick recap of some of the top stories from today:

    • Electric vehicle sales fall in Europe

    • IMF boss quotes Churchill and warns of coming shocks

    • EasyJet narrows losses despite Middle East conflict

    • Deliveroo sees weak trading in UK and Ireland

    • US jobless claims remain near lows

    • TSMC posts first profit growth in a year

    • Iran oil exports hit six-year high

    • Bitcoin price falls ahead of halving as ETF inflows slow

    Catch you all tomorrow, have a good ev

  • US imposes sanctions on Iranian drone makers

    America as unveiled a fresh round of sanctions against Iranian individuals and companies involved in the production of drones after Tehran’s attack on Israel.

    The US Treasury said on Thursday it was targeting 16 individuals and two companies that help the production of unmanned aerial vehicles, such as drones.

    This is in co-ordination with measures also announced by the UK.

    Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, said:

    “We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead.”

  • US home sales fall in March

    Sales of existing US homes fell in March as the number of overall transactions was held back by high mortgage rates.

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said that existing home sales fell 4.3% from February to a seasonally adjusted 4.19 million rate.

    Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said: “Though rebounding from cyclical lows, home sales are stuck because interest rates have not made any major moves.”

    It added that home sales were down 3.7% from a year ago.

    It comes as mortgage rates have risen over the past two years after the Federal Reserve rapidly hiked interest rates to 23-year highs to tackle runaway inflation.

  • US jobless claims remain near lows

    The US jobs market has remained tight with the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits coming in unchanged at 212,000 last week — a historically low.

    According to the Labour Department, the four-week average of claims, which softens some of the weekly volatility, was also unchanged at 214,500.

    Weekly unemployment claims are considered a proxy for the number of US layoffs in a given week and a sign of where the job market is headed.

  • IMF boss quotes Churchill and warns of coming shocks

    International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a news conference at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
    International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a news conference at the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) (Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press)

    Kristalina Georgieva, the boss of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), warned governments to prepare for the next shock to their economies with fiscal consolidation.

    She said: "In a world of more frequent shocks we know we will be tested again.”

    Quoting former British prime minster Winston Churchill, she added: “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.”

    Her comments come during a press conference in Washington as part of its spring meetings.

  • Wall Street set to open higher

    The US stock market is set to open in around a quarter of an hour. Let's have a quick look at how things are shaping up...

    Wall Street futures are currently in the green, with tech and chip stocks set to recover from their sell-off yesterday.

    It comes as Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said she expects price pressures to ease further this year, allowing the central bank to reduce borrowing costs, but only when it is “pretty confident” about inflation hitting the 2% target.

    Money market participants see a 46% chance of the Fed cutting interest rates in July, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

  • UK job adverts decline

    The total number of online job adverts decreased by 2% last week compared to the week before, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

    This came in 19% lower than a year ago during the same period.

  • TSMC posts first profit growth in a year

    Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSM) has revealed a better-than-projected revenue outlook amid rising demand for AI-related products.

    The Taiwanese chipmaking company, whose clients include Apple (AAPL) and Nvidia (NVDA), stuck with plans to spend as much as $32bn (£25.66bn) in 2024.

    TSMC has gained about $340bn of market value since an October 2022 trough, riding bets it will become a top winner of a global boom in AI development. It posted a better-than-expected rise of 9% in net income to NT$225.5bn ($7bn) for the March quarter.

    “Looking at 2024 as a whole, macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty persists, potentially weighing on consumer sentiment and end-market demand,” Wei told analysts on a conference call.

    Laster this month, TSMC also said it would build a third semiconductor factory in Arizona, raising its total investment in the United States to $65bn.

    It already had plans to build two plants in Arizona, and another one in Germany.

    See what other tickers are trending here

  • Bitcoin price falls ahead of halving as ETF inflows slow

    Bitcoin has fallen to its lowest level in over a month as inflows from spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) begin to waver.

    The world's largest digital asset by market capitalisation (BTC-USD) decreased by over 3% in the past 24 hours, falling below $62,000 (£49,709). The downturn saw the digital asset hit a monthly low of $60,181 on Wednesday evening UK time, a price not seen since the middle of March.

    The downturn comes after a slowing of inflows into spot bitcoin ETFs from fund managers such as Franklin Templeton (BEN), and ahead of Saturday's bitcoin halving event.

    Spot bitcoin ETF trading volumes have declined from their early March peak. Since the beginning of this week, many ETF issuers have even recorded zero flows.

    Tuesday saw another day of spot ETF net outflows, totalling $58m. This was accelerated by $79.4m and $12.9m outflows from the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) and ARK 21Shares Bitcoin ETF (ARKB), respectively.

    However, IBIT, BlackRock's (BLK) iShares Bitcoin Trust ETF, has continued to post daily positive flows, with $25.8 million in inflows recorded on Tuesday.

    Read the full article here

  • Mortgage market update

    Moneyfacts has revealed that average borrowing rates are unchanged on Thursday.

    • The average 2-year fixed residential mortgage rate today is 5.81%. This is unchanged from the previous working day.

    • The average 5-year fixed residential mortgage rate today is 5.39%. This is unchanged from the previous working day.

    Following Wednesday's smaller-than-expected inflation fall, money markets are betting a high chance that there are two cuts to UK interest rates this year, bringing the bank rate down to 4.75% in December from 5.25% today.

  • Foxtons cheers strong start to 2024

    London estate agent Foxtons’ has revealed sales revenue growth of 17% to £9.5m in the first quarter of 2024.

    The progress meant the group took a larger share of the market.

    Lettings revenue rose 5% during the quarter to £24.0m, with Foxtons adding that rental prices have “stabilised” as supply and demand of tenancies have normalised.

    Guy Gittins, chief executive, said:

    We entered the second quarter with the highest value under-offer sales pipeline since the 2016 Brexit vote, giving us optimism for the rest of the year.

  • Bundesbank: Germany likely avoided recession

    The German economy may have avoided a recession at the start of the year, according to the Bundesbank.

    The comments come despite earlier predictions that Europe’s largest economy saw output shrink for a second consecutive quarter between January and March, while GDP contracted 0.3% in the final quarter of 2023.

    It said the first three months of the year may well have seen a “slight increase” in GDP, Bloomberg reported.

    In its monthly report, it said:

    Germany’s economic situation has brightened somewhat, but it remains weak at its core.

    It’s therefore not yet certain that the increase in economic output will continue in the second quarter.

  • Hipgnosis agrees to Alchemy takeover

    Justin Bieber performs his song
    Justin Bieber performs his song (REUTERS / Reuters)

    Hipgnosis has agreed to a $1.4bn (£1.1bn) takeover by Alchemy Copyrights.

    The music royalties firm said Alchemy, trading as Concord, struck the deal to buy the business for the equivalent of £0.932 per share.

    The fund, which owns the back catalogues for artists including Justin Bieber and Shakira, launched a strategic review last year to assess a potential sale and other options.

    Robert Naylor, chairman of Hipgnosis, said:

    “The acquisition represents an attractive opportunity for our shareholders to immediately realise their holding at a premium, mitigating the risks we see ahead to achieving a material improvement in the share price.

    “At the same time, the board is confident that Concord, one of the world’s leading independent music companies, is the right owner to take on the Hipgnosis catalogue and manage it in the interests of composers and performers.”

  • EasyJet narrows losses despite Middle East conflict

    EasyJet (EZJ.L) shares climbed more than 3% on Thursday, to the top of the FTSE 100, as it narrowed its losses despite losing revenue from cancelled flights to Israel and Jordon last winter.

    The budget airline took a £40m hit from the Middle East conflict but still managed to trim losses for the six months to the end of March by over £50m, to between £340m and £360m. This was against losses of £411m a year earlier.

    It also benefitted from the early timing of Easter this year, which led to more demand for flights during March.

    "The importance that consumers place on travel coupled with easyJet’s trusted brand has driven good demand for our flights and holidays. Our growth and focus on productivity have reduced winter losses by more than £50m," Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said.

    “We have further enhanced our network with the launch of new bases in Alicante and Birmingham providing greater choice for consumers across Europe."

    Between October and March, passengers numbers rose 8% year-on-year, while average fares paid increased 9%.

  • Best UK mortgage deals of the week

    Average mortgage rates are unchanged from the previous week but overall homeowners are still struggling to find a decent mortgage rate.

    The average rate on a two-year fixed deal this week stood at 5.74%, while for a five-year deal, rates came in at 5.24%, according to figures from Uswitch.

    The market appears to be volatile, as the higher costs providers are paying to fund mortgage lending have pushed many lenders to axe some of the cheaper deals. Still, some lenders such as NatWest and Halifax have slightly improved their offers.

    This follows the Bank of England’s (BoE) decision to leave UK interest rates on hold at their current 16-year high of 5.25% for a fifth consecutive time.

    Uswitch mortgage expert Kellie Steed told Yahoo Finance UK:

    “Again a fairly static week for average rates, lenders both increasing and decreasing their deals have likely maintained this balance. Whereas Santander and TSB have both made reductions on some of their fixed-rate options, the Bank of Ireland have increased some of theirs. Virgin Money, on the other hand, has both reduced some deals and increased others in their range.

    "While recent speculation was that the base rate would fall in June, many experts believe it could now be August, or even later when we finally start to see the base rate and mortgage rates fall. This is largely due to the minimal fall in inflation announced yesterday (from 3.4% to 3.2%), which it seems, has already impacted swap rates. This may result in increased mortgage rate volatility in the coming weeks."

    Find out more here

  • European stocks rebound

    European benchmarks have rebounded today, pushed higher by producer manufacturing, consumer durables, and financial stocks.

    Pierre Veyret, technical analyst at ActivTrades, said:

    “However, the lack of significant geopolitical or monetary improvements makes us believe today’s price action may be a technical correction rather than a bullish reversal.

    "Indeed, these positive moves on global stocks come as the sell-off in treasury markets halts and the USD takes a break from its bullish trend, easing some of the pressure on riskier assets.

    “These moves may come from profit-taking / short-sell buybacks, which could mean the bearish trend could resume soon for equity markets.

    “Even if a lateral consolidation could still take place in the short term, as long as traders are pricing in a “higher for longer” monetary narrative, a bullish trend resurgence won’t be the most likely scenario for stocks.”

  • Iran oil exports hit six-year high

    Iran oil exports have hit a six-year high, boosting its economy as it gears up for fresh sanctions after its attack on Israel.

    According to new data from Vortexa, Tehran sold an average of 1.56 million barrels a day during the first three months of the year,

    Iran’s economy has been boosted by $35bn a year as a result, the Financial Times said, as production reached its highest level since the third quarter of 2018.

    Almost all of the exports have been sent to China.

  • Deliveroo sees weak trading in UK and Ireland

    Deliveroo posted weaker trading across the UK and Ireland at the start of the year, citing an “uncertain” consumer backdrop.

    The takeaway group order numbers in the region came in flat in the first quarter, despite rising 1% in the previous three months.

    Sales by gross transaction value (GTV) rose 6%, down from 7% in the fourth quarter of 2023.

    Will Shu, chief executives, aid the UK and Ireland consumer environment “remains stable but uncertain”.

    However, overall, Deliveroo said it returned to growth in order numbers group-wide in the first quarter, with a 2% increase against a 3% fall over 2023 as a whole.

    Group GTV increased 6% due to better performance across France, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong.

  • Electric vehicle sales fall in Europe

    File photo dated 08/03/22 of a Tesla electric vehicle being charged in Hayes, west London. Households with insulation and clean tech such as heat pumps and electric cars are more
    File photo dated 08/03/22 of a Tesla electric vehicle being charged in Hayes, west London. Households with insulation and clean tech such as heat pumps and electric cars are more (John Walton, PA Images)

    Electric vehicle sales tumbled in Europe last month with demand particularly drying up in Germany.

    According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, sales of battery-powered cars dropped 11.3% to 134,397 units, whilst sales in Europe’s largest economy fell 28.9%.

    New car registrations fell for the first time this year during the month, dropping by 5.2% to around one million units.

    The timing of the Easter holidays negatively impacted sales, ACEA said, with petrol sales down 10.2% and diesel registrations declining by 18.5%.

    However, hybrid-electric car registrations rose by 12.6%.

  • Asia and US stocks

    Stocks in Asia advanced overnight despite a fall in technology stocks on Wall Street.

    The Nikkei (^N225) rose 0.3% on the day in Japan, while the Hang Seng (^HSI) rose 1% in Hong Kong. The Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was 0.1% up by the end of the session.

    Across the pond, the S&P 500’s (^GSPC) suffered its worse losing streak since the start of the year, losing 0.6% to 5,022.21.

    The Dow Jones (^DJI) fell 0.1% to 37,753.31, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index (^IXIC) dropped 1.2% to 15,683.37.

    Elsewhere, the yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasury bonds dropped to 4.58%, from 4.66% late on Tuesday.

  • Coming up...

    Good morning, and welcome to our live markets blog. Be sure to stay tuned to stay updated with what's happening across the global economy, and what's moving markets.

    Here's a quick look at what's on the agenda for today.

    • 7am: Trading updates: Nokia, Centamin, Dunelm, AJ Bell, Rentokil

    • 7am: EU car sales for March

    • 8am: EU Current Account

    • 10am: Eurozone construction output for February

    • 1.30pm: US weekly jobless data

Watch: What is a recession and how do we spot one?

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