First-time US unemployment benefits claims fell back below 200,000 last week, the latest in a series of strong data that has dimmed hopes of an early interest rate cut

London (AFP) - Global stocks attempted to rebound Thursday in choppy trade as investors assessed the outlook for interest rates after the previous day’s sharp losses.

Wall Street opened mixed, with mega-cap stocks helping the S&P 500 and Nasdaq push higher.

European markets were higher in afternoon trading, while Asian markets mostly ended higher.

Oil prices rose as continued unrest in the Middle East weighed on sentiment.

Global stocks had sunk Wednesday as stronger-than-expected US retail sales data dimmed hopes for an early start to US Federal Reserve rate cuts, while weak Chinese growth data gave cause for concern.

London had also been hit by an unexpected but modest acceleration in inflation, which also dampened talk of rate reductions from the Bank of England.

Hopes for an early cut by the European Central Bank have also been doused by boss Christine Lagarde who warned no such move was foreseen until the summer.

- ‘Choppy action’ -

“European markets are rising after yesterday’s losses as the choppy action that we have seen since the start of the year continues,” City Index analyst Fiona Cincotta told AFP.

“The heightened volatility reflects a market that is realigning central bank rate-cut expectations.

“With the European Central Bank rate decision and US inflation data in store for next week, the choppiness that is characterising 2024 looks set to continue.”

The British capital’s FTSE 100 also shifted back into the black following bright news in the betting sector, after gambling giant Flutter revealed surging annual sales and an imminent US listing.

The news sent its share price rocketing 15 percent to top the FTSE 100 risers board.

In Asia, stocks mostly trod higher, but gains were capped by a lack of meaningful measures by Beijing to boost China’s economy following news of poor 2023 growth.

Hong Kong and Shanghai enjoyed some rare gains on bargain-buying after recent losses, though worries about China’s economic outlook continued to drag on sentiment following Wednesday’s soft economic growth figures.

- ‘Stuck in limbo’ -

“The markets appear to be stuck in limbo at the moment,” said Craig Erlam at OANDA.

“Investors are desperate to remain positive and optimistic which delivered such a strong end to 2023 but the data is not really delivering as it was.”

December US retail sales out Wednesday smashed forecasts and data released Thursday showed first-time claims for unemployment insurance fell back under 200,000 last week.

The figures followed surprisingly high readings this month on consumer prices and jobs creation, as well as minutes from the Fed’s most recent meeting that showed officials were keen to keep rates elevated for some time to contain inflation.

While the data has dimmed hopes of an early rate cut this year, on the other hand it reassures investors about the state of the US economy.

Meanwhile, oil prices rose Thursday after Islamabad said it had carried out strikes against militant targets in Iran, with Tehran reporting a death toll of seven civilians after staging its own air raid in Pakistan earlier this week.

That came after the United States carried out more strikes on Huthi positions in Yemen as punishment for the Tehran-backed group’s attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, which has ramped up worries about supplies of oil and other exports through the waterway.

- Key figures around 1430 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 37,156.78 points

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.4 percent at 4,756.09

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.9 percent at 14,994.99

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,460.05

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.0 percent at 7,390.64

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.7 percent at 16,539.58

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.9 percent at 4,440.89

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 35,466.17 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.8 percent at 15,391.79 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 2,845.78 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0861 from $1.0883 on Wednesday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 147.99 yen from 148.16 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2666 from $1.2676

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.78 pence from 85.84 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.1 percent at $73.37 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.7 percent at $78.40 per barrel