Stock rally stalls but eurozone bond yields drop

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A global stock market rally stalled on Thursday as euphoria over major central banks’ coordinated cut to borrowing costs wore off. But hopes that European leaders will deliver a long-term solution to the debt crisis next week helped push eurozone borrowing rates sharply lower.

Stocks and bonds had jumped on Wednesday when central banks in Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan made it cheaper for banks to borrow dollars, helping them to operate smoothly at a time of tight credit. China’s central bank also acted to release money for lending and to shore up growth by lowering bank reserve levels for the first time in three years.

Worries about Europe’s financial system and the European Central Bank’s reluctance to intervene heavily in bond markets have seen borrowing rates rise for European countries in recent weeks. That raised fears of a global credit crunch of the type that plunged the world economy into recession in 2009.

But analysts said that the central banks’ move might only have a short-term effect and does nothing to solve the underlying problem of enormous government debt in Europe. Investors say the real boost to the markets might come only if European leaders announce a dramatic action at the summit on debt crisis next week.

ECB chief Mario Draghi hinted Thursday that the bank is prepared to play a bigger role in the resolution of the debt crisis, but only after the 17 countries that use the euro tether their economies more tightly.

After huge gains this week, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed down 0.3 percent at 5,489.34. Germany’s DAX fell 0.9 percent to 6,035.88 and France’s CAC-40 ended 0.8 percent lower at 3,129.95.

In the United States, the markets were down modestly after enjoying Wednesday the best day in two and a half years.

The Dow Jones industrial average was 0.4 percent lower at 11,994.60, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 0.4 percent to 1,242.41 as investors brushed off a rise in jobless claims. The number of Americans applying for the benefits last week rose for the second straight week, indicating that the economic recovery is still slow and uneven.

Although the stock rally waned, eurozone bonds continued to perform strongly on hopes that European leaders will agree to some new support for weaker states, such as Italy, in exchange for tighter controls over their spending.

Bond yields in the secondary market — where the bonds are traded freely once they are issued — dropped for most eurozone countries. Italy’s key 10-year bond yield fell sharply to 6.62 percent from 7.30 percent the day before, a sign that investors are more hopeful it will be able to handle its debts.

Bonds received a boost from successful auctions in France and Spain. France saw its borrowing rates drop in a sale of 10-year and 15-year bonds. Spain enjoyed strong demand for its bonds although it had to pay higher interest rates.

In currencies, the euro gained 0.1 percent to $1.3461 late Thursday afternoon in London. The dollar rose to 77.69 yen from 77.56 yen.

Asian markets earlier posted sharp gains as they caught up with the news of the central banks’ intervention. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.9 percent to close at 8,597.38. South Korea’s Kospi surged 3.7 percent to 1,916.18 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng vaulted 5.6 percent to 19,002.26.

Benchmarks in Australia, India, Singapore and Taiwan all rose more than 2 percent. In mainland China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 2.3 percent to 2,386.86.

The action late Wednesday by the Chinese central bank signaled a key change in monetary policy and pushed shares of Chinese banks up.

By easing reserve requirements, the Chinese central bank made available some 350 billion yuan ($55 billion) that otherwise would have been locked up in reserves.

In energy trading, benchmark crude for January delivery was down $1.25 to $99.11 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 57 cents to settle to $100.36 on Wednesday.