Stocks push ahead as earnings counter uncertainty over interest rates

<html xmlns=""><head><title>GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks push ahead as earnings counter uncertainty over interest rates</title></head><body>

German inflation data points to peaking prices

European shares hit fresh nine-month highs

Chinese shares buck declining trend

U.S. stock index futures firmer

Chorus of Fed speakers caps sentiment

Swedish central bank hikes rates by 50 basis points.

By Huw Jones

LONDON, Feb 9 (Reuters) -Stocks, crude oil and gold rose while the dollar eased on Thursday as investors sifted through earnings reports, German inflation data and Federal Reserve policymaker speeches for clues on how many interest rate hikes lie ahead.

On the corporate news front Credit Suisse Group CSGN.S reported its worst annual loss since the global financial crisis in 2008, sending its shares lower.

This was countered by better-than-expected earnings from Siemens and Britain's AstraZeneca, helping to pierce uncertainty over the interest rate outlook.

A number of Federal Reserve speakers echoed Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday in saying that interest rates are set to go higher, capping risk sentiment, ahead of U.S. inflation data next week.

Sweden's central bank on Thursday raised its key interest rate by half a percentage point to 3%, and forecast further tightening in the spring.

The STOXX .STOXX index of European shares rose 0.8%, after touching nine-month highs on Wednesday as investors pinned hopes on peaking inflation and a major recession now looking less likely on the continent.

"European markets are still fairly positive as the case for investing in the U.S. is much lower because valuations there are much higher and ability to grow earnings harder," said Mike Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

"I think there will be outperformance in Europe simply because energy prices have come down a lot more than perhaps was thought to be the case last year," Hewson said.

German consumer prices, harmonised to compare with other European Union countries, rose by a less-than-anticipated 9.2% on the year in January, helping to reassure markets that prices have peaked.

"It's not going to change the ECB's mind for a 50 basis point rate hike in March," Hewson said.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey is due to be quizzed by lawmakers about Britain's economic and rate hike outlook at 0945 GMT.

The MSCI all country stock index .MIWD00000PUS was up 0.2%, building on gains of about 7.5% so far this year after a loss of 20% in 2022.

"We are still caught in this vascillating macro economic dymanic with risk on, risk off again. People are still calibrating their way through what normal growth looks like," said Paul Major, manager of Bellevue Healthcare Fund plc.

It was unclear if China will come "roaring back" in the second half of the year to drive the global economy, and if it does, whether that would trigger another round of inflationary pressures, Major said.

"The U.S. is on fire... I think I would want to be overweight U.S. equities for the next three to five years because they've got energy independence, a robust economy," Major said

Firmer S&P 500 futures ESc1 and Nasdaq futures NQc1 were also underpinning sentiment in Europe and Asia.


MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up 0.6%, after being down earlier in the session, although Japan's Nikkei .N225 remained slightly weaker.

China's blue chips .CSI300 rose 1.3%, pulling away from its one-month trough, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index .HSI was up 1.6%.

Barclays upgraded their forecast of China's economic growth to 5.3% this year, from 4.8% previously, while Fitch revised up their forecasts on China's economic growth this year to 5%. Both cited accelerated recovery in consumer spending. nL1N34O0CN

"We expect the pace of recovery to strengthen further in Q2 on improving infrastructure investment and a gradual recovery in the housing market, before normalising in H2," said analysts at Barclays.

Overnight, sentiment took a hit as Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O shares fell 7.7% after its new AI chatbot Bard delivered an incorrect answer in a promotional video, dragging the S&P 500 .SPX and Nasdaq .IXIC lower by more than 1%.

"Now that inflation has passed its peak and many central banks have begun to slow the pace of policy tightening, markets are back to scouring their communications for evidence of what's to come," said Jennifer McKeown, chief global economist at Capital Economics.

The bond market rallied a little after being caught wrongfooted by the January blockbuster U.S. jobs report, forcing many to reposition for a higher peak in the Fed funds rate.

The two-year Treasury yield US2YT=RR, which rises with traders' expectations of higher Fed fund rates, eased to 4.4295% on Thursday, while the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR slid to 3.6107%.

Futures are pricing in the Fed's target rate to peak at 5.122% in July, about 25 basis points higher than last week, and that by December it will have declined to 4.804%, a jump of about 40 basis points since a week ago. FEDWATCH

In the currency markets, movements were rather muted. The dollar index =USD slid 0.37% but held close to a 1-month high at 103.05 against major peers, after last week's stunning jobs and services data.

In the oil market, Brent crude LCOc1 futures gained 0.3%to $85.34 while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 rose 0.3% to $78.68. O/R

Gold was slightly higher. Spot gold XAU= traded at $1,882 per ounce, up 0.45% on the day. GOL/

Asia stock markets

Asia-Pacific valuations

Europe's gas rollercoaster

Reporting by Huw Jones, additional reporting by Stella Qiu; Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Simon Cameron-Moore

To read Reuters Markets and Finance news, click on For the state of play of Asian stock markets please click on: 0#.INDEXA

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