U.S. Equity Markets ended last week at new all-time highs, with the Dow leading the charge, closing higher by 0.49%. Strong economic data continued to provide a tailwind for markets. Housing Starts and Building Permits rose more than expected in March, signalling that the housing market remains strong despite rising prices and higher mortgage rates. And Consumer Sentiment rose again, hitting the highest level in more than a year as people become more optimistic on the pace of vaccinations and economic growth. Earnings season remains a catalyst, with S&P 500 earnings rising 30% so far in the quarter, up from a 24.5% growth rate earlier in the week. This will continue to be a closely watched trend in the coming weeks. European Markets surged on Friday. European Parliament voted in favour of ratifying the trade deal between Britain and the European Union, moving it a step closer to approval before the late April deadline. European car sales data for March hit the highest level since June 2019, in a sign of strengthening consumer demand. Italy’s debt burden is set to hit its highest level ever this year, as the country borrows more money to kickstart economic growth. Italy also gave a timetable for the lifting of restrictions, saying that most of the country should reopen in some capacity after April 26. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel continued to push for more control over coronavirus restrictions, saying that the national government should have the power to classify hotspots and set restrictions. China’s First-Quarter Gross Domestic Product data were in line with expectations, growing by a record 18.3%, but quarter-over-quarter data indicated a slowing pace. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga arrived in the U.S. for talks with President Joe Biden, where the two are expected to discuss how to counter China’s growing presence. South Korea said President Moon Jae-in will meet with Biden next month in Washington, D.C. to discuss regional security concerns including China and North Korea. Elsewhere, Gold closed 0.52% higher on Dollar weakness, while Bitcoin fell 3% after Turkey’s central bank banned the use of cryptocurrencies. The sell-off in Bitcoin continued over the weekend and is now down 20% as I go to press.
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