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Stocks and bonds soar as investors bet peak in interest rates is near

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Investors piled into stocks and bonds on Thursday as they seized on signs that interest rates are close to peaking on both sides of the Atlantic.

Stocks on Wall Street shot to their highest since August, while government bonds in Europe staged their biggest one-day rally in years.

The gains came after the Bank of England joined the Federal Reserve in hinting that a series of aggressive rate rises over the past year is nearing its end.

Although the BoE’s half-point interest rate rise was widely expected, it dropped previous guidance that it would continue to act “forcefully” to curb inflation.

By contrast, European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde vowed to “stay the course” as her institution lifted rates by half a point and pledged to do the same in March. But Lagarde also stressed that future rate decisions would be dependent on upcoming economic data.

“We’re in a position now where markets are taking a victory lap on what looks like co-ordinated ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ signalling from central banks,” said Charlie McElligott, analyst at Nomura.

“The market has voted with its feet, the train has left the station, highly speculative stuff is exploding higher, bond yields are tumbling,” he added. “[Central banks] have thrown gasoline on the fire”.

In the US, the S&P 500 climbed 1.3 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite surged 3.1 per cent. Europe’s Stoxx 600 was up 1.4 per cent and Germany’s Dax climbed 2.2 per cent.

Government bonds also rallied sharply. The yield on the 10-year German bond, a regional benchmark, dropped 0.22 percentage points to 2.07 per cent, reflecting rising prices. Yields on riskier Italian 10-year bonds fell 0.4 percentage points to 3.90 per cent. US Treasuries extended a rally that began on Wednesday after Jay Powell said that “for the first time the disinflationary process has started” in consumer goods, a comment markets interpreted as a dovish signal from the Fed chair, pushing 10-year yields to their lowest since September.

In the UK, traders now expect the BoE’s next rate rise to be its last, with borrowing costs expected to hit a peak of 4.25 per cent by August. In the eurozone, markets expect rates to peak at 3.25 per cent in the summer, up from the current level of 2.5 per cent.

“Markets wanted to rally and are getting very excited, looking past anything slightly more hawkish” said by officials at the three central banks, said Matthew Rees, head of global bond strategies at Legal & General.

The dollar index, which tracks the US currency against a basket of six currencies, traded 0.4 per cent higher on Thursday, having slipped more than a tenth in the past three months as the pace of interest rate rises has slowed.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dipped 0.5 per cent, China’s CSI 300 slipped 0.3 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.2 per cent.

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