Monday is shaping up to be a positive day for global markets in spite of a deadly suicide bombing in Moscow on Sunday. In the U.S. stocks were bouncing from Friday's close and while gains are mild the strength is very widespread. The consumer spending report came in positive for the fifth month in a row. Meanwhile euro strength is pushing the dollar lower and fueling a rally in commodities. Crude oil is up very strong with a 3% gain to $82.45 a barrel. Copper is also seeing a strong performance with a 3.4% jump to new ten-week highs. Gold is up about $7 to $1,112 an ounce.
It was a relatively quiet day in Asia. The Japanese NIKKEI index lost 0.09% after hitting 18-month highs on Friday. Morgan Stanley upgraded Seven & I Holdings, Japan's biggest retailer, and the stock rallied 2.9%. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng index gained +0.88% for its fourth gain in the last five sessions. The Chinese Shanghai index rallied over 2%.
European markets displayed resilience and continued to climb in the face of a deadly suicide bombing in a Moscow subway station. Suspects for the two bombings, 40 minutes apart, are two Muslim females. More than 35 people were killed and over 60 were wounded. Thus far no group has taken responsibility for the attack. The Russian currency slipped lower while the MICEX Russian stock market index actually rallied 1.7%.
Elsewhere the European Union announced that business and investor confidence for the 16-nation eurozone came in better than expected with a rise from 95.9 in February to 97.7 in March. This was the highest level since May 2008. Fears over a Greek debt default are also cooling after last week's meeting and safety net agreement by EU leaders. Greece, who needs to raise more than 20 billion euros worth of capital by the end of May, announced it will sell five billion euros in seven-year bonds. The struggling country is offering extremely high yields to attract investors to the bond auction. At the close on Monday the English FTSE gained +0.13%. The French CAC-40 rose +0.29%. The German DAX rallied +0.6%.
Here at home in the U.S. the big economic report was the consumer spending number. The Commerce Department announced that consumer spending rose for the fifth month in a row. The +0.3% rise in February was in-line with estimates. Analysts are suggesting that if this trend is going to continue we have to see more job growth. That's why there will be so much focus on the jobs report this Friday. In other news the U.S. Treasury did confirm recent reports that it would aim to sell its 7.7 billion shares of Citigroup this year. The Treasury's cost is $3.25 a share and at Citigroup's current share price the government stands to make about $7.5 billion in profit.
The market's widespread gains are concentrated in the commodity sector. Rising oil and metal prices have pushed the OIX oil index up 1.3% and the OSX oil services index up +1.7%. The XAU gold & silver index is up 1.8% and the GDX gold miner ETF is up 1.39%. The XNG natural gas index is showing strength with a 2.4% rally. The market is also seeing strength in the healthcare stocks (+1.2%), railroads (+1.0%), and the semiconductors (+1.0%). The worst performers today are the banks (-0.5%) and the retailers (-0.29%).
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