Wall St up as China concerns ease

Specialist Jarret Johnson works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo / AP
Specialist Jarret Johnson works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo / AP

Wall Street moved higher overnight as investors found value in beaten-down stocks as the latest data from China eased some concern about the outlook for the global economy. Gains were checked as US oil slipped.

While China reported economic growth that was the most tepid in 25 years, it still expanded 6.9 percent last year, compared with 7.3 percent in 2014.

"The slowdown in China is nowhere near as bad as markets feared, plus officials have the ability to intervene and stimulate growth," Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of Seven Investment Management in London, told Bloomberg. "Though sentiment is still rock bottom, valuations have been so squeezed that any sign of corporate health should help."

Wall Street breathed a sigh of relief. In 13.14pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.1 percent. In 12.58pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.2 percent. On Monday US markets were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.

Wall Street gave up some of its gains amid a decline in US crude prices.

Global oil markets could "drown in oversupply" and prices could move lower, according to the International Energy Agency in its first monthly report of the year.

Gains in shares of UnitedHealth Group and those of Procter & Gamble, last up 3.1 percent and 1.7 percent respectively, led the Dow higher.

Still, the International Monetary Fund downgraded its estimate for global growth outlook, thanks to China's economic slowdown, a stronger US dollar and geopolitical tensions.

The global economy will grow 3.4 percent this year, down from an October estimate of 3.6 percent, according to the IMF in its quarterly update to its World Economic Outlook, while lowering its 2017 growth estimate to 3.6 percent, down from 3.8 percent.

"This coming year is going to be a year of great challenges and policymakers should be thinking about short-term resilience and the ways they can bolster it, but also about the longer-term growth prospects," Maurice Obstfeld, IMF economic counsellor and director of research, said in a statement. "Those long-term actions will actually have positive effects in the short run by increasing confidence and increasing people's faith in the future."

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 1.3 percent advance from the previous close. Germany's DAX Index added 1.5 percent, the UK's FTSE 100 Index gained 1.7 percent, while France's CAC 40 Index climbed 2 percent.

Here, better-than-expected corporate earnings including from Unilever and Software added to sentiment.

In the US, Bank of America shares fell, last trading 2.1 percent weaker, after the bank reported its latest quarterly earnings.

Revenue growth will be "challenging," even as the US economy improves, Bank of America Chief Financial Officer Paul Donofrio said on a call with analysts, according to Bloomberg.

The bank's energy loans were US$21.3 billion, or 2 percent of the total outstanding, Donofrio noted.

"As we continue to assess and react to future changes in the energy sector we could see lumpiness that could potentially drive provision expense over US$900 million," Donofrio said.

- BusinessDesk

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