World stocks shrugged off worries over political turmoil in Egypt and rallied strongly Thursday on optimism that easy monetary policy from central banks in Europe is set to continue for some time to come. U.S. markets were closed for Independence Day.
The biggest gains were in Britain, where the Bank of England surprised markets after its first monetary policy meeting held under new governor Mark Carney, formerly Canada's central banker, at which it decided to keep monetary policy loose to keep borrowing rates down.
The monetary policy committee kept its key interest rate at the record low of 0.5 percent and decided against expanding its stimulus program, as widely expected in the markets. The bank said expectations that it would raise rates in coming months were unwarranted, despite the improving economic backdrop.
The bank has pumped 375 billion pounds ($579 billion US) into Britain's economy since 2009. Under the program, the Bank of England buys bonds from financial institutions with newly created money. The hope is the extra money will boost lending, helping economic growth.
The Bank of England said that since May, "there have been further signs that a recovery is in train" but the recovery was weak by historical standards. It expects inflation, which is at 2.7 percent, to slow to the bank's 2 percent target. That should allow the bank to keep its monetary policy loose for some time -- unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is planning to rein in its stimulus.
German, French, U.K. markets rise.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank kept rates at record lows in light of the eurozone's ongoing recession, with president Mario Draghi for the first time saying they will remain there "for an exended period of time."
Stocks surged after both the ECB and the Bank of England statements.
Britain's FTSE 100 index jumped 3.1 per cent to close at 6,421.67 while Germany's DAX rose 2.1 per cent to 7,994.31. France's CAC 40 gained 2.9 per cent to 3,809.31.
The central bank statements contributed to strong declines in the euro and British pound against the dollar. Looser monetary policies tend to weaken a currency as low interest rates mean lower returns on investments and more attractive opportunities can be found elsewhere. The euro fell 0.7 per cent to $1.2916 US, while the British pound fell 1.4 per cent to $1.5066.
Financial shares were among the strongest gainers, with Royl Bank of Scotland PLC stock rising 5.1 per cent, Barclays PLC up 4.7 per cent and HSBC PLC up 4.6 per cent.
"Global markets stormed ahead today as...Draghi confirmed that interest rates will be kept at current record lows or even further lowered in order to inject more liquidity into struggling eurozone nations," said Spreadex trader Shavaz Dhalla in a note on markets.
However, "there is still the concern that volumes are thin today owing to the U.S market being closed."
Nikkei slips 0.3%
Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was the strongest gainer, rising 1.6 per cent to 20,468.67. China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.6 per cent to 2,006.10.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 bucked the trend, slipping 0.3 per cent to 14,018.93, despite remarks from Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda that the country's economy is headed for recovery.
The U.S. dollar gained fractionally against the yen, just passing the 100 yen mark to 100.01 yen.
Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor, noted that while physical exchanges are closed in the U.S., futures are still trading, and they indicate Wednesday's rally on the back of favorable jobs and unemployment data has continued, with Dow Jones Industrial Index futures now trading above 15,000. The index closed at 14,988.50 Wednesday.
"Whether this can be sustained will clearly be reflected by what's happening on a global basis," he said in a note on markets. "The situation in Egypt remains hugely sensitive whilst resurgent eurozone woes could knock sentiment."
Investors around the world were also keeping a close watch on the oil price, which has passed $100 per barrel owing to Wednesday's overthrew by Egypt's military of Mohammed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, after he defied calls to resign despite the demands of millions of protesters.
Egypt is not an oil producer but its control of the Suez canal — one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, which links the Mediterranean with the Red Sea — gives it a crucial role in maintaining global energy supplies. High energy costs act as a drag on economic growth, but oil has eased somewhat from its Wednesday highs and was down 25 cents to $100.99.
U.S. jobs data restores confidence
The Bank of England and ECB statements also led to lower government bond yields in southern Europe, where fears have been brewing that a crisis in Portugal's governing coalition could bring Europe's debt crisis back to a boil.
"These actions should help limit increases in bond yields in the U.K. and Europe, even as (U.S.) Treasury yields grind higher amid Fed tapering speculation," said BMO Economist Benjamin Reitzes.
Over the past few weeks, markets have sputtered amid speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve might taper off its policy of buying $85 billion in bonds every month to keep interest rates low and encourage spending.
But on Wednesday, unemployment and jobs data out of the U.S. were just right for stocks, analysts said: good enough to restore confidence that the U.S. economic recovery is continuing, but not so good that the Fed is likely to pull back on stimulus.
"We have had a period of extreme volatility, and now we have some settling going on," said Lorraine Tan, director at Standard & Poor's equity research in Singapore. "I think there's a realization that the (negative) reaction may have been overdone."