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London (CNN Business)Spurred on by renewed optimism about the post-pandemic recovery and a strong fear of missing out, investors keep pushing stocks higher.
What’s happening: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 34,000 for the first time on Thursday as Wall Street celebrated a strong start to corporate earnings season.
But US stocks aren’t the only ones getting love. MSCI’s broad gauge of global stocks, which covers 23 developed and 27 emerging markets, just hit an all-time high, too, while Europe’s Stoxx 600 index is on track for its seventh consecutive week of gains.
For now, traders have set aside their concerns about inflation, which could encourage policymakers to start hiking interest rates or tapering bond purchases sooner than expected.
“A sense of calm has been restored to global bond markets which has facilitated a renewed rally in risky assets,” Simon MacAdam, senior global economist at Capital Economics, told clients Friday.
But there’s a notable exception. Stocks in China have come under pressure since February as Beijing has cracked down on tech companies. Investors are also worried that China, which is recovering from the pandemic faster than other major economies, could pull back stimulus over the course of the year in a bid to contain rising debt risks.
Watch this space: On Friday, China’s economy posted its strongest quarterly growth on record, expanding 18.3% year-on-year in the first three months of 2021. The jump reflects the deep slump in activity in early 2020, but keeps China on track for growth of between 8% and 9% in 2021, according to economists.
Chaoping Zhu, global market strategist for JPMorgan Asset Management, noted that GDP grew by just 0.6% compared with the final quarter of 2020, the slowest pace since China began its pandemic comeback.
“It shows that the Chinese economy has already normalized,” Zhu wrote in a research note.
A withdrawal of support from policymakers isn’t just a risk in China. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has also cautioned that governments should be careful not to “brutally” withdraw job guarantees and income support before the time is right.
That will be especially important as another wave of infections sweeps many parts of the world, forcing countries to return to lockdowns. Differing paces of vaccine campaigns, in addition to the trajectory of infections, could cause the performance of some markets to diverge in the coming weeks.
“While the latest data show that the recovery in the US is being supercharged by a combination of fiscal stimulus and relaxation of restrictions, for much of the rest of the world, vaccine setbacks and worsening virus outbreaks will delay economic recoveries,” MacAdam said. “The surge in virus cases in India has grabbed attention in recent weeks, but infections are on the rise in most parts of the world, especially in emerging economies.”
On the radar: India’s stock market has also pulled back from record highs reached in February, and could stay under pressure while the country tries to get the coronavirus back under control.
Massachusetts wants to pull the plug on Robinhood
Regulators in Massachusetts are seeking to pull the plug on Robinhood just as the booming app aims to go public in a blockbuster initial public offering.
The latest: The Massachusetts Securities Division escalated its months-long battle against the startup Thursday by moving to revoke its broker-dealer license in the state, my CNN Business colleague Matt Egan reports.
State regulators accused Robinhood of failing to properly account for fractional shares traded by customers on its platform, and said the company “continues to entice and induce inexperienced customers into risky trading.”
Big picture: The push by Massachusetts to revoke Robinhood’s license is yet another obstacle as the company prepares to go public. It filed confidentially for an IPO late last month.
What we’re wondering: Will Robinhood’s legal and PR troubles matter to investors, or will they hone in on the startup’s breathtaking growth?
In a blog post, Robinhood sharply criticized what it described as “unfounded, politicized allegations and unreasonable demands” from regulators in Massachusetts and warned that revoking its license would block access for millions of customers.
“The Massachusetts Securities Division’s attempt to prevent Massachusetts residents from choosing how they invest is elitist and against everything we stand for,” Robinhood said. “We don’t believe our customers are naive as the Massachusetts Securities Division paints them to be.”
Remember: The battle began in December when regulators in Massachusetts filed a 24-page complaint against Robinhood accusing the company of violating state law by failing to protect customers and safeguard its system.
It hasn’t been the app’s only tangle with regulators. CEO Vlad Tenev was hauled before Congress earlier this year amid scrutiny over Robinhood’s role in the GameStop (GME) trading frenzy. Robinhood was also fined $65 million by the SEC for allegedly deceiving customers.
Yet the company continues to grow rapidly, especially in the crypto space. During the first quarter, 9.5 million customers traded cryptocurrencies on Robinhood, according to the company. That’s up from just 1.7 million during the final three months of last year.
America’s addiction to Funyuns boosts Pepsi
America’s ravenous appetite for Funyuns is great news for PepsiCo.
The snacks and beverage giant reported net revenue growth of 6.8% in the 12 weeks that ended on Mar. 20 compared to the same period last year. That’s a pretty good showing, given the pantry-loading frenzy that took hold this time last year, my CNN Business colleague Danielle Wiener-Bronner reports.
What’s behind the sales boost? Our collective love for junk food, in part.
Lay’s had low-single digit growth, the company said Thursday. Tostitos and Doritos grew in the mid-single digits, while Ruffles delivered high-single digits sales growth during the quarter.
But the small and mighty Funyuns brand posted double-digit growth, as did Off The Eaten Path, which has veggie puffs and hummus crisps.
PepsiCo also called out its Doritos 3D Crunch and Cheetos Crunch Pop Mix as big winners. Some of its beverages, like Bubly and ready-to-drink coffee beverages it sells in partnership with Starbucks, also delivered high growth.
The question now: Will America keep snacking in a post-pandemic world? Investors aren’t sure. The company’s shares are down 4% this year, and were flat after Pepsi reported earnings.
BNY Mellon, Morgan Stanley (MS), PNC (PNC) and State Street (STT) report results before US markets open.
Also today: US housing starts and building permits for March post at 8:30 a.m. ET, followed by the latest consumer sentiment survey from the University of Michigan at 10 a.m. ET.
Coming next week: Corporate earnings season marches on with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Netflix (NFLX), Chipotle (CMG), United Airlines (UAL) and American Express (AXP).
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