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People are reflected on a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo April 24, 2012. (Toru Hanai/Toru Hanai/REUTERS)
People are reflected on a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo April 24, 2012. (Toru Hanai/Toru Hanai/REUTERS)

Markets calmer as tension eases Add to ...

Markets are striving to consolidate after the previous session’s euro zone neurosis, with equities and commodities attracting some funds away from selected havens.

The FTSE All-World index is up 0.2 per cent after a mixed day in Asia and as the FTSE Eurofirst 300 adds 0.6 per cent at the open. S&P 500 futures are gaining 0.2 per cent, pointing to a firmer start for Wall Street.

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Traditional risk actors are in character. The dollar index, usually inversely correlated to growing optimism, is down 0.1 per cent, while supposedly racier plays are seeing buyers, with copper up 0.9 per cent to $3.66 a pound.

Tuesday’s relatively meagre strength in growth-focused assets requires context. Monday saw heavy selling in stocks and resources and a shift into perceived bolt-holes such as the dollar, yen and German and U.S. sovereign debt, as investors were once again spooked by news emanating from Europe.

Economic and political woes were the cause of the wobble as uncertainty about future French and Dutch fiscal policy joined with fresh evidence that the continent as a whole would struggle to avoid slipping back into recession.

Some of those moves in assets are being partially revised as tensions ease. The euro zone sovereign bond complex is quieter, with Spanish 10-year yields steady at 6 per cent and French and Dutch benchmarks also seeing more stable yields, helping to crunch spreads slightly with Germany as Bund yields add 4 basis points to move off record lows.

The euro is up 0.2 per cent to $1.3181, well off the trough of $1.3103 hit at the height of the previous day’s funk.

So, why the rebound, albeit tentative? Well, European bourses have been helped by Wall Street finishing well off its lows overnight. Also, it is quite common for wholesale market wobbles to be followed by a calmer reassessment the next day, with opportunistic bulls welcoming the chance provided by the pullback.

In addition, a reasonably solid €2-billion auction of Dutch government two and 25-year bonds was got away without much drama on Tuesday, helping to ease sovereign debt anxiety somewhat.

But the main reason for such an undercurrent of stock market optimism, the bulls will argue, is that corporate earnings continue to support valuations. Cynics question the ease with which profit expectations are so readily beaten - more than 80 per cent of S&P 500 constituents that have reported have exceeded forecasts - but it is churlish to doubt that they provide support to the market, warranted or not.

It’s a very busy week globally for company results, though inevitably the focus may be on the big U.S. groups. The latest to please the Street is Texas Instruments, after the chip maker delivered an upbeat forecast for second-quarter revenues.

Then there is Apple . The iPad maker is not the best barometer of aggregate consumer demand - the cachet afforded its products renders them fairly price and household income inelastic. But it remains for many an important gauge of market sentiment and leadership. As such, Apple’s results after the closing bell on Wall Street will be watched eagerly.

After that, investors’ attention will turn to the conclusion of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s April policy meeting on Wednesday. No change in main rates is expected, but as has been the case for some time now, it is how the market interprets what chairman Ben Bernanke has to say on any potential liquidity injection that may set the tone for trading for the next few sessions.

Earlier on Tuesday in Asia, exporters in Tokyo were under pressured from a stronger yen, which had pushed back through ¥81 to the dollar. This left the Nikkei 225 down 0.8 per cent, a decline responsible for much of the FTSE Asia Pacific’s 0.3 per cent loss. The yen has since fallen back - down 0.1 per cent to ¥81.23 - after Reuters reported that the Bank of Japan was set to boost liquidity further on Friday.

In Sydney, metals groups were struggling following recent weak Chinese economic readings, but a benign reading on inflation cheered investors who thought it would encourage more monetary easing by the Reserve Bank of Australia. The Aussie dollar is down 0.4 per cent to $1.0274 on the news but the S&P/ASX 200 stock index added 0.2 per cent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 0.3 per cent as property shares and mainland lenders find some support, while the Shanghai Composite ended flat.

South Korea failed to get much lift from an early rebound for auto makers ahead of first-quarter results later this week, and the Kospi index shed 0.5 per cent.

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