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European stocks creep higher, as bitcoin attempts recovery

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Joe Biden's vast stimulus passed earlier this year has helped fire the US economic recovery but has also added to inflationary pressures, while investors will be closely watching the progress of other big-spending measures in Congress./AFP
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May 24, 2021 - 12:50 PM

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM — European stocks edged higher on Monday after a mixed session in Asia, while bitcoin rallied after a weekend plunge.

London’s FTSE 100 index was up 0.3 percent around midday and the Paris CAC 40 added 0.2 percent in early afternoon eurozone deals. Frankfurt was shut owing to a German public holiday.

Bitcoin jumped close to $36,500, having tanked on Sunday towards $30,000.

The last time it fell below that level was in January.

The cryptocurrency has experienced extreme volatility in recent weeks after a series of tweets by tech tycoon Elon Musk and warnings of a crackdown by China.

“The FTSE 100 made sedate progress on Monday … although you would imagine investors would take that after something of a wild ride last week driven by inflation fears and a bitcoin crash,” said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

“The cryptocurrency remains more up and down than a yo-yo, enduring further heavy losses over the weekend before staging a modest recovery amid a crackdown in China.”

Europe’s three major stock markets had advanced Friday on strong data which sparked hope of economic recovery from the deadly Covid-19 health crisis.

Asian bourses traded mixed as inflation concerns played off against optimism over the global economic recovery, while spiking infections in parts of the region kept investors on their toes.

Wall Street provided a tepid lead at the end of last week.

With expectations that the global recovery will pick up pace this year, the main focus is now on the impact that will have on prices, with observers warning a long period of high inflation will force central banks to wind back the ultra-loose monetary policies that have helped fire a long-running market rally.

Adding to the upward pressure on inflation is US President Joe Biden’s massive stimulus package passed earlier this year, while he also has others worth trillions more on infrastructure and help for families.

The Federal Reserve has repeatedly said it will not scale back on its largesse, which includes vast bond-buying and record low interest rates, until unemployment is tamed and inflation is consistently on the high side.

– Oil rises again –

Oil prices extended Friday’s rally as the reopening of economies narrative outshone worries about the impact on demand from a possible Iran nuclear deal that would see more of the commodity hit the world market.

A storm in the Gulf of Mexico that could develop into a hurricane has also raised the prospect of some production facilities being taken offline.

“There’s a lot of vaccine-driven demand optimism in the US and Europe that’s likely to be further boosted by the summer driving season next month,” said Kim Kwangrae, of Samsung Futures.

Key figures around 1100 GMT 

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,039.16 points

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 6,396.45

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 15,347.51 (closed)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.1 percent at 4,027.72

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 28,364.61 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.2 percent at 28,412.26 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,497.28 (close)

New York – Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 34,207.84 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2222 from $1.2182 at 2100 GMT on Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4136 from $1.4150

Euro/pound: UP at 86.44 pence from 86.09 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.86 yen from 108.96 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.9 percent at $67.67 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.7 percent at $64.68 per barrel

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