Wall Street and FTSE higher as inflation and banking fears ease

·5 min read
FTSE U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen takes questions on the Biden administration's plans following the collapse of three U.S. lenders including Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, as she testifies before a Senate Finance Committee hearing on U.S. President Joe Biden's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2024, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 16, 2023. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert
FTSE: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that banking regulation needs to be re-examined in the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failures. Photo: Mary F Calvert/Reuters

The FTSE 100 and European stocks finished higher this Thursday as the City of London lost its sole position as the world's leading financial centre and worries over banks following the collapses of several lenders in recent weeks receded.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) rose 0.74% to close at 7,620 points, while the CAC 40 (^FCHI) in Paris climbed 1.17% to 7,271 points. In Germany, the DAX (^GDAXI) gained 1.31% to 15,529.

London loses sole lead as world’s top financial centre

London is no longer the clear leader among global financial centres after New York rose from second place to level peg with the British capital as more companies list in the United States, the City of London Corporation's said this Thursday.

London received an overall competitiveness score of 60, up from 59 in 2022, while New York increased its score by 2 points to equal London with 60 points.

According to the updating ranking compiled by the body which governs the City, London – which had come top outright in the previous three years of the report – will have to do more over the next few years to reassert its position.

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Chris Hayward, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said London’s “competitive advantage is at risk”, adding: “A long-term plan to stimulate growth in the financial and professional services sector is needed.”

US and Asia

US stocks are rising again as a bit more fear evaporates from Wall Street. The Dow Jones (^DJI) rose 0.26% to 32,802 points. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) climbed 0.53% to 4,049 points and the tech-heavy NASDAQ (^IXIC) gained 0.78% to 12,018.

The US economy maintained its resilience from October to December despite rising interest rates, growing at a 2.6%c annual pace, the government said Thursday in a slight downgrade from its previous estimate.

US applications for jobless benefits rose last week but remain at historically low levels despite efforts by the Federal Reserve to cool the economy and the job market in its fight against inflation.

"Market sentiment remains relatively positive, and investor confidence remains high despite the recent turmoil brought by the financial sector, as appetite for risk gets supported by the prospect of dovish pivots from central banks, providing a good excuse to push stock indices higher just before the end of the quarter," Pierre Veyret, a technical analyst at ActivTrades, said.

Jobless claims in the US for the week ending March 25 rose by 7,000 to 198,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said.

The figures came as US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that banking regulation and supervisory rules need to be re-examined in the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failures.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 (^N225) lost 0.36% to 27,782 points, while the Hang Seng (^HSI) in Hong Kong rose 0.32% to 19,921. The Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) also gained ground, rising 0.65% to 3,261 points.

FTSE 100

Back in London, SSE (SSE.L) has hiked its profit forecasts yet again. Shares in the electricity generator are among the top rises in early trading, up 4.26%.

SSE now expects to make 160 pence per share in the 2022-23 financial year, up from previous guidance of more than 150 pence/share.

It credits the upgrade to a “continued strong performance” from its flexible generation plant as it supported the security of UK energy supplies. UK households are facing a one in generation cost of living crisis driven mostly by higher energy bills.

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Elsewhere, H&M (HM-B.ST), the world's second-biggest fashion retailer, has revealed a surprise operating profit for the December-February period.

Economists had expected the company to announce losses of around 1bn Swedish krona (£80m). It instead announced an operating profit of 725m krona (£56m) despite weak demand as consumers curtailed spending amid soaring inflation.

Another day without any unwelcome banking surprises has cheered investors, said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor: "Technology shares were a particular area of buying interest and have seen gains in anticipation of hopes that the interest rate hiking cycle may be nearing its end. In addition, chipmaker Micron saw its shares rise by over 7% after stating that inventory issues were now improving.

"The rosy outlook statement added fuel to the fire of optimists, who read the news as being indicative that the overall economy was holding up, given that the company’s chips are used in a wide variety of industries. In terms of the main indices, the Nasdaq has been the stand-out performer and currently stands ahead by 14% in the year to date.

"Elsewhere, remarks to Congress by the US bank regulator appeared to lay the blame for the Silicon Valley Bank collapse at the door of the banking supervisors and their failure to spot the stresses, as opposed to a more systemic weakness within the system. While sentiment currently remains on something of a knife-edge, no news will continue to be good news in terms of any further banking shocks. The so-called fear gauge, or volatility index, also returned to early March levels as a further indication of investor relief that the worst may have passed."

Pound vs dollar

The pound (GBPUSD=X) held steady and is heading for its biggest monthly gain against the dollar since November.

Sterling has risen by 0.5% against the dollar and remains well above $1.23. The pound is heading for its largest monthly gain since a 5.2% rally in November.

The opposite was happening against the euro, with sterling (GBPEUR=X) hovering around €1.13.

Oil markets

Meanwhile, Brent crude (BZ=F) gained ground and was trading at around $79/barrel, amid higher demand for crude in the US.

Fear of supply disruptions continues to dominate the global oil market, pushing prices higher.

Watch: Takeaways From Two Days of Bank Failure Hearings

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