Wednesday, 17 February: Asian markets retreated more than 1% overnight, as Brent oil sustained $32/bbl before rising slightly into the London open. Nonetheless, the FTSE indices opened in the green for the third consecutive day after initially struggling for direction. Oil continued to rally on the hopes that a meeting in Tehran(Iran) today of major oil producers would yield a production freeze, lifting risk assets higher as the day progressed.
Miners were lifted after China committed financial support to its industries and to reduce capacity. The document that was released stated that Chinese authorities will help firms reduce financial costs and accelerate de-stocking, while also planning to adopt liquidity management tools. Anglo American, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton were up 9.72%, 4.29% and 5.5% in afternoon trade, lending a leg up to the FTSE 100 index.
Glencore surged 14%, after announcing the refinancing of one of its substantial credit facilities earlier than expected, as banks gave the miner a vote of confidence. A smaller refinanced facility with no covenants was secured.
Further signs that a UK rate rise is distant came today as the latest labour market data was released. UK unemployment fell slightly for the 3 months to December to 5.1% as 60k jobs were added in the period. However, signs that the economy may be reaching its natural rate of unemployment were absent as wages grew a meagre 0.1%, to 2.0% on average for the three months to December. For pay inclusive of bonuses, growth dipped to 1.9% from 2.1% for the same period. These current rates of pay growth are seen as insufficient to drive inflation to the 2% target, given the absence of price pressures elsewhere in the economy.
Mixed data was also seen across the pond as Industrial production was up 0.9% due to car sales, but U.S. housing starts fell 3.8% in January from December. The rebound in industrial production yields hope that the U.S. can weather exogenous export headwinds, but a fall in housing starts could be signs of weakness brewing in the domestic economy. Nevertheless, American equities were enjoying the general oil-driven risk asset rally.
At the close European indices were up with the FTSE 100 +2.87%, the CAC 40 +2.99%, and the DAX 30 +2.65%.