Euro stands tall as investors bet recovery hampers dollar, stocks up

The euro stood at an 18-month high, silver soared and commodities forged ahead on Wednesday, as economic recovery hopes drove bets on rebounding world demand and a falling U.S. dollar. FILE PHOTO: A security guard wearing a face mask walks past the Bund Financial Bull statue, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on The Bund in Shanghai, China March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song/File PhotoStock markets in Asia ground higher, except in Australia where a surge in coronavirus infections put pressure on bank and travel shares and the benchmark index fell 1%. S&P 500 stock futures ESc1 advanced 0.4% in line with the relatively positive mood. The euro's EUR=EBS rally was triggered by European Union leaders striking a deal for a region-wide rescue plan, a huge step toward both recovery and a stronger union. The common currency surged to $1.1543, its best since January 2019, as investors bet an economic rebound would benefit currencies besides the dollar as global exports pick up and trade improves. “Overall, sentiments are improving,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics at Mizuho Bank in Singapore. “It’s given the euro that afterburner, and it’s true for the Aussie as well ... it went for broke once the dollar started unravelling.” The Australian dollar AUD=D3 hit a more than one-year high of $0.7144 on Wednesday and was further bolstered by strong domestic retail sales data. Bellwether three-month copper futures HGc3 CMCU3 sat close to two-year peaks and iron ore prices opened higher still, shrugging off a production increase in Brazil and a cautious outlook from global miner BHP. Sliding real bond yields have added to the lustre of precious metals, at the same time that industrial demand has put silver on a tear. Spot prices XAG= for the metal, used in solar systems, rose 5% on Wednesday and are up 15% for the week. Gold XAU= also made a fresh nine-year high of $1,865.35. “The silver-gold price ratio is still well short of the long-term average,” said Commonwealth Bank of Australia commodities analyst Vivek Dhar “We think that means that a sustained rally in silver can continue, particularly when demand hopes and supply concerns are added to the mix.” CLIFF CONCERNS Elsewhere there was a lid on optimism. The spread of the coronavirus in the United States and other hotspots such as India, Latin America, Tokyo and Melbourne, gathered pace and signs abound that economic recovery is far from assured in the shorter term. Japanese factory activity contracted for a 15th straight month in July. Economists are expecting trade-sensitive South Korea to post its worst economic contraction in 20 years when second-quarter GDP data is published on Thursday. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.2% to sit just below a five-month top made on Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei .N225 dipped 0.2%. The United States also reported more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the first time the grim milestone has been passed since June, and President Donald Trump warned that things will probably get worse before they get better. Republicans and Democrats are at loggerheads over the size of the next fiscal relief package as a month-end “fiscal cliff” deadline for extending unemployment insurance looms. “It remains to be seen if Republicans and Democrats have the same resolve demonstrated by EU leaders to find middle ground by next week,” DBS analysts in Singapore said in a note. “This concern was evident in U.S. equities.” FILE PHOTO: 100 Euro Banknotes are seen at the Money Service Austria company's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard FoegerOn Wall Street overnight the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX index poked in to positive territory for the year so far, but struggled for headway and closed 0.16% higher. The Dow .DJI rose 0.6%, and the Nasdaq .IXIC fell 0.8% as investors sold a spectacular tech rally that has swelled titans Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet so much that their market value exceeds that of all Japan's equities combined. Oil prices remain rangebound, but hung on to most of their overnight gains. Brent futures LCOc1 slipped 0.5% to $44.12 per barrel and U.S. crude fell 0.5% to $41.70 a barrel.

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