LONDON — World stocks rose and the dollar sank to a seven-week low on Thursday after minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest meeting showed policymakers were divided over whether to raise interest rates soon.
Recent comments from Fed officials suggested a hike in the world's largest economy could be on the cards as soon as next month, but signs of restraint within the rate-setting committee brought relief to markets, sending global bond yields lower.
“No news is good news,” said Subadra Rajappa, head of U.S. rates strategy at Societe Generale.
“With little clarity on the timing of the next rate hike in the minutes of the July meeting, bonds rallied, the dollar fell and risky asset recovered.”
The pan-European STOXX 600 index, which had fallen in the last four sessions on a run of weak company earnings reports, was up 0.6 percent.
Wall Street was set to open flat, consolidating gains seen on Wednesday.
MSCI's 46-country All World index climbed 0.2 per cent to head back towards a one-year high, hauled higher by a 0.5 per cent rise in Asian shares, their biggest rise since Aug. 8.
Japan's Nikkei bucked the trend though, dropping 1.5 per cent after data showed exports from the country falling at their fastest pace since the financial crisis.
The fall in the dollar dominated currency market moves.
The dollar's index against a basket of six major currencies fell to 94.385, its weakest since June 24, when the global economy's outlook took a hit in the immediate aftermath of Britain's shock vote to leave the EU.
The euro was 0.3 per cent higher at US$1.1320, having hit a seven-week high of US$1.13285.
Even the struggling British pound rose, jumping to a two-week high of US$1.3150 after UK retail sales for July beat forecasts, showing little sign that British shoppers had been affected by the Brexit vote.
“The condition of the (U.K.) economy in the weeks since the referendum has not been as bad as feared,” said Jane Foley, a currency strategist with Rabobank in London.
Global bond yields fell with Europe's benchmark, 10-year German yields, down 3 basis points at minus 0.08 per cent and U.S. equivalents extending the previous day's drop to hit 1.55 per cent.
U.S. money market futures showed traders reducing bets on the timing of rate hikes. CME Group's FedWatch tool implied traders saw a 47 percent chance of a rate rise at its December meeting, down from 58 percent shortly before the release of the minutes.
The July meeting's minutes published on Wednesday showed Fed policymakers were generally upbeat about the U.S. economic outlook and labor market. But they also said they wanted to “leave their policy options open” as any slowdown in hiring would argue against near-term monetary tightening.
The weaker dollar was an additional help to commodities, but crude prices were slightly depressed by the prospect of record Saudi output.
International Brent crude oil futures were down 0.2 per cent at US$49.74 per barrel at 1020 GMT.
Copper, which had slid on the dollar's rise earlier in the week, trimmed some of its losses as the U.S. currency flagged.
Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange extended gains to 1.4 per cent on the day at US$4,838 a tonne after losing 0.8 per cent on Wednesday. Gold and silver prices were also slightly higher on Thursday.