Global stocks surge to record highs for first time since 2015

Global stocks surge to record highs for first time since 2015
A trader at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
PHOTO: Reuters

Global stocks have pushed to new highs, outdoing previous records set in 2015, driven by strong economic data in the US and comments by the Federal Reserve on the future path of interest rates.

The FTSE All-World index, which is priced in dollars and measures more than 7,000 companies in 47 countries, closed at 293.31 points on Wednesday afternoon and pushed even higher as stocks opened on Thursday. Reuters data showed this was the first record high reached since the end of May 2015. The benchmark is heavily geared towards America with US stocks having just over a 50 per cent weighting.

"Further consideration of the implications of Fed Chair (Janet) Yellen's comments for the path of US interest rates, enhanced by another strong set of US economic data releases, ensured that financials stocks continued to play a central part in further gains for world equity benchmarks yesterday," Ian William, an economist and strategist at Peel Hunt, said in a note on Thursday morning.

Yellen told US lawmakers on Tuesday and Wednesday that the US economy had dealt with the financial crisis better than European countries and that the economy had recovered from a very deep crisis. She also hinted that there could be an interest rate hike as early as next month.

Meanwhile, data on Wednesday showed retail sales in the US increasing more than expected and expectations are that consumer spending will continue to be a key contributor to growth. Inflation has also come in higher than expected and manufacturing output has expanded. Such figures have boosted financial stocks across world markets, alongside Yellen's comments with lenders preferring an environment of higher interest rates.

"In the UK, a late-session rally pushed the FTSE 100 above 7,300 to its highest close in a month, with banks leading the way once again, backed by pharmas and life insurance," Hunt added.

John Bilton, global head of multi-asset strategy at JPMorgan Asset Management told CNBC that rising growth and the shift towards reflation reinforces the view on stocks against bonds.

"The world economy is improving in concert for the first time in over five years based on economic surprise indices," he told CNBC via email.

"In turn, this has driven the normalised global earnings revision ratios to its highest level over that period. This creates a favourable backdrop for stocks in general and lends support to regional equity markets despite the domestic US focus of the Trump administration."

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