Global stocks rise as Syria tensions ease

Reuters
A trader passes by the post that trades Verizon wireless and Time Warner Cable on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange September 3, 2013.
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A trader passes by the post that trades Verizon wireless and Time Warner Cable on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange September 3, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fixed-income investors gobbled up $49 billion in notes sold by Verizon on Wednesday, the largest-ever corporate bond sale in history, while global stocks rose as tensions over a possible military strike on Syria eased, and the dollar fell to a two-week low.

The S&P 500 stock index rose for a seventh straight day.

Verizon Communications Inc's (NYS:VZ - News) $49 billion bond deal drew a total of $101 billion in orders from pension funds, endowments, institutional buyers and wealth managers hungry for higher-yielding securities.

Many corporations and countries are rushing to sell debt as they expect long-term interest rates to rise when the U.S. Federal Reserve reduces its stimulus in coming months. The Fed will hold a policy meeting next week.

Verizon sold the bonds partly to finance its $130 billion buyout of its wireless operations, Verizon Wireless, from Vodafone (VOD.L).

"Despite the specter of higher Treasury rates going forward, investor demand remains for attractively priced corporate credit deals," said Bonnie Baha, who heads global developed credit at DoubleLine.

As underwriters of the Verizon deal lifted hedges they had put on to offset exposure to the Verizon offering, that supported Treasuries prices.

The Treasury's well-bid auction of re-opened 10-year notes also drove up prices of U.S. government debt.

"Historically, reopenings have seen stronger demand than refundings, a trend that proved relevant today," said William O'Donnell, head Treasury strategist at RBS Securities in Stamford, Connecticut. "The auction was on the stronger side."

Benchmark 10-year notes rose in price 16/32. The yield, which moves inversely to price, eased to 2.91 percent from 2.97 percent on Tuesday and a two-year high of 3.01 percent on Friday.

SYRIAN CONCERNS REMAIN

Major U.S stock indexes advanced as the concerns over Syria eased, although jitters remained.

President Barack Obama said a Russian offer to pressure Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control raised the chances of putting off a strike, though he voiced skepticism about Russia's plan.

Obama also asked Congressional leaders to delay a vote on to authorize military force in order to allow diplomacy to play out.

"The speech lessens some of the macro concerns out there, and as the worst-case scenario around Syria becomes more unlikely, investors are rotating back towards the market," said Eric Teal, chief investment officer at First Citizens Bancshares in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) shares fell 5.4 percent one day after it unveiled a high-end iPhone with a fingerprint scanner as well as a cheaper model targeted at emerging markets.

The decline in Apple hurt the Nasdaq Composite, which dropped 4.01 points, or 0.11 percent, to 3,725.010. But the Dow Jones industrial average, aided in part by a rise in IBM shares, rose 135.54 points, or 0.89 percent, to 15,326.60. The S&P 500 gained 5.14 points, or 0.31 percent, to 1,689.13.

Globally, MSCI's 45-country world index rose 0.46 percent. The FTSEurofirst 300 pan-European share index rose 0.32 percent.

Oil recovered some ground with Brent crude at $111.64, above a 2 1/2-week trough of $110.59. The steadier performance came after a 4 percent drop in the past two sessions, the largest two-day fall since June.

Gold edged up to $1,364.50 an ounce, after touching a three-week low of $1,356.85.

In Europe, Britain's unemployment rate dipped to its lowest level since late 2012 in the latest sign its economy is picking up.

Sterling rose to a seven-month high against both the dollar and the euro.

Benchmark German government bonds tracked minor gains by U.S. Treasuries.

Italy's benchmark yields rose above Spain's for the first time in 18 months amid concern about political instability and about Italy's banks before an examination of all euro zone banks by the European Central Bank in coming months.

DOLLAR NEAR TWO-WEEK LOWS

Anticipation over the Federal Reserve's policy meeting next week, on September 17-18, kept trading in check, with currency and the U.S. government debt markets awaiting whether the Fed will begin to reduce its bond-buying program.

The dollar fell near two-week lows against major currencies as some traders pared bets on a reduction in stimulus by the Fed.

The yen rebounded against the dollar, though remained close to a seven-week low struck earlier.

The euro rose 0.36 percent to $1.3315. The dollar fell 0.59 percent to 99.80 yen.

The dollar index, a measure of the greenback versus six major currencies, slipped 0.4 percent to 81.481, the weakest since August 29.

(Additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos, Wanfeng Zhou, Karen Brettell, Eileen Soreng and Neha Alawadhi in New York and Marc Jones in London; Editing by Leslie Adler and Kenneth Barry)

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