By Patrick Graham
LONDON (Reuters) – Shares rose on Monday with Asian stocks buoyed by hopes for stimulus to boost China’s economy, but the euro slipped on more concern about Greece’s finances.
In Europe, a rally in technology shares, tracking Friday’s surge in the U.S. tech sector, helped equities bounce back from losses last week, although Athens’ stock market was down on concern about whether the country will be able to reach agreement with its creditors.
Germany’s DAX index (.GDAXI) rose 1.5 percent, Paris gained 1.2 percent (.FCHI) and the overall FTSE Eurofirst index of 300 leading European companies was up by 1.1 percent (.FTEU3).
Chinese stocks surged to seven-year highs, helped by Beijing’s unveiling of an ambitious plan to build a modern Silk Road to Europe and Africa and signs from People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan that added to expectations of more monetary policy easing.
Analysts say investment in the “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure initiative this year alone could reach 300 billion yuan to 400 billion yuan (32-43 billion pounds).
“China’s economy is under relatively big downward pressure, and the government is struggling to meet the 7 percent growth target this year,” said Alex Kwok, Hong Kong-based strategist at China Investment Securities (HK). “So Zhou’s comment sends a strong signal of more easing policies ahead.”
Shanghai shares were up another 2.5 percent on Monday, the market’s best day since the middle of January.
Helped by the creation last year of a new link with the Hong Kong market which allows foreign money to flow in far more easily, Shanghai’s main index (.SSEC) is trading at its highest since before the global financial crash of 2008.
The link also allows the huge cash reserves China has built up in two decades of constant growth to start flowing the other way and China’s decision to allow mutual funds to buy Hong Kong stocks drove a 3 percent surge in values of Chinese companies listed there. (.HSCE)
The euro was down around a third of a percent, hurt by uncertainty over whether Greece and its international creditors will be able to strike a deal that will help Athens secure funding before it runs out of money by April 20.
Talks continued through the weekend on reforms to unlock loans and Athens sounded an upbeat tone, but the lenders said it could take several more days before a proper list of measures was ready.
The dollar has also had its weakest fortnight since the start of a rally which many major banks believe will soon take it past parity against the euro. The euro traded at $ 1.0880 on Monday.
“Given the Greek uncertainty and the bias for more monetary injection through asset purchases by the European Central Bank, the path for least resistance is a lower euro/dollar,” said Jeremy Stretch head of currency strategy at CIBC World Markets.
Like others, however, he said that the wait for U.S. jobs numbers on Friday might keep a lid on market volatility.
“Unless the euro drops below $ 1.0770 we could see ranged trading, but with the Fed still looking to raise rates, we could see conditions which are more helpful for overall dollar strength,” he said.
Oil prices fell on rising expectations that Iran and six world powers could reach a deal over Tehran’s nuclear programme, which could bring an end to sanctions and allow an increase in Iranian oil exports.
(Additional reporting by Anirban Nag and Alistair Smout; Editing by Susan Fenton)
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