KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany’s DAX rose 0.8 percent to 12,601 and France’s CAC 40 added 0.3 percent to 5,469. London’s FTSE 100 jumped 0.9 percent to 7,485, though that rise had more to do with the sharp fall in the pound following worse than expected U.K. economic growth figures. Wall Street was headed for modest falls at the open with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.2 percent — on Thursday, both indexes rose 1 percent amid strong earnings from the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Starbucks and United Parcel Services.
KOREA SUMMIT: Geopolitical hopes are helping global stock markets too after Kim Jong Un became the first North Korean leader to visit South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953 for talks with the South’s president, Moon Jae-in, about the North’s nuclear program. The meeting comes amid mounting pressure on Kim’s government to give up nuclear and missile development. Kim and Moon greeted each other warmly and then held a private meeting. The two sides repeated a previous vow to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons but failed to provide any specific new measures or forge a potential breakthrough on an issue that has captivated and terrified many since the rivals seemed on the verge of war last year.
ANALYST TAKE: “Today’s landmark summit between the two Koreas should help to remove a major tail risk for the region’s markets and economies,” said Gareth Leather, senior Asia economist at Capital Economics.
ASIA’S DAY: That viewpoint was evident in the performance of Asian shares. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.2 percent to 3,082.23 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 added 0.7 percent to 22,467.87. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.9 percent to 30,280.67 and Seoul’s Kospi was 0.7 percent higher at 2,492.40. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.7 percent to 5,939.60 and India’s Sensex climbed 0.8 percent to 35,003.46.
UK SLOWDOWN: In Britain, shares got a lift after soft growth data reined in expectations that the Bank of England will raise interest rates again next month. The 0.1 percent outturn for the first quarter was less than anticipated and renewed fears about the impact on the economy of Britain’s impending exit from the European Union. The pound fell sharply on the news as traders priced in a lower likelihood of a rate hike next month. In early afternoon trading it was trading 0.9 percent lower at $1.3790. The lower pound helped boost sentiment towards exporters as well as increase the dollar-denominated earnings of the index’s international companies.
JAPAN ECONOMY: Japan’s central bank left its ultra-easy monetary policy and inflation forecast unchanged. The Bank of Japan’s short-term policy interest rate is negative 0.1 percent and it aims to keep the yield on 10-year government bonds at zero percent. The meeting was the first since BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda began a new five-year term this month.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 26 cents to $67.93 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 27 cents to $73.61 per barrel in London. It jumped 65 cents the previous session to $73.88.
CURRENCY: The euro fell 0.3 percent to $1.2068 while the dollar was flat a109 yen.