Stocks rally into U.S. jobs report as commodity prices surge

MSCI's benchmark for global equity markets, which tracks stocks in 50 countries, edged up about 0.1%

  
A passersby wearing a protective face mask is reflected on screen displaying the Japanese yen exchange rate against the U.S. dollar and stock prices at a brokerage, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan November 6, 2020.

A passersby wearing a protective face mask is reflected on screen displaying the Japanese yen exchange rate against the U.S. dollar and stock prices at a brokerage, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan November 6, 2020.

REUTERS/Issei Kato

TOKYO - Global stocks headed for their first weekly gain in three amid a surge in commodity prices, while traders braced for a key U.S. jobs report later on Friday that could provide clues on when the Federal Reserve will ease back on monetary stimulus.

MSCI's benchmark for global equity markets, which tracks stocks in 50 countries, edged up about 0.1%, on course for a 0.4% gain this week.

Its broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose about 0.5% on Friday, while Japan's Nikkei gained about 0.2%.

China's blue chips swung between gains and small losses, despite data Friday showing an unexpected pick-up in the nation's export growth.  

Futures pointed to a 0.7% rise for Europe's benchmark stock index and a 0.6% gain for Britain's FTSE at the open.

"This will continue for the time being, because the reopening (reflation) trade is still just getting underway," Masahiko Loo, a Tokyo-based portfolio manager at AllianceBernstein, said of rising equity and commodity markets.

Commodity prices may peak soon, but will then consolidate at current high levels, he said.

Aluminum prices approached levels last seen in 2018 and copper flirted with 10-year peaks as investors bet on a rapid global recovery from the pandemic, led by the United States.

Iron ore futures vaulted to a record high on Friday, while crude oil rose. 

Overnight, Wall Street investors piled into economically-sensitive stocks on the reflation trade, driving the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a record high close on Thursday.

The Dow rose 0.9%, the S&P 500 gained 0.8% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.4%.

S&P futures pointed to further gains, edging 0.1% higher on Friday.

Financials and industrials led Thursday's rally in U.S. shares after a report showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell below 500,000 last week for the first since the COVID-19 pandemic started, signalling the labour market recovery entered a new phase amid a booming economy. 

The Russell 1000 Value index gained 0.8%, outpacing the Russell 1000 Growth index, which rose 0.5%.

"The rotation theme will probably continue for a while longer," Alliance Bernstein's Loo said.

The focus now shifts to Friday's non-farm payrolls report, with estimates ranging widely between 700,000 and more than 2 million jobs having been created in April.

"Get ready for payrolls, they could be huge," Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone in Melbourne, wrote in a note for clients.

"The commodity space is the talk," and financials are the "bull play" going into the payrolls report, he said.

So far, Fed Chair Jerome Powell has argued the labour market is far short of where it needs to be to start talking of tapering asset purchases. The central bank has said it will not raise its benchmark Fed funds rate through 2023.

The safe-haven dollar sank to its lowest level this week against a basket of major peers on Friday ahead of the jobs report, as firmness in global stock markets boosted risk appetite.

The dollar index dipped to 90.837, and was on track for a 0.4% decline this week.

Treasury yields hovered near the lowest level this month on Friday, further removing support for the greenback, after bond traders largely shrugged off the better-than-expected initial jobless claims data and waited for the non-farm payrolls report to provide market direction.

The 10-year Treasury note yielded 1.5682% in Asia.

Gold headed for a 2.5% weekly gain, the most since December, as the weaker dollar and easing Treasury yields propelled the precious metal, an inflation hedge, above the psychological $1,800-an-ounce level to last trade at around $1,818.

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Richard Pullin)


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