Thursday, August 11, 2016

US stocks at record high; Alibaba grows globally; Global gold demand jumps 15%

1 US stocks at record high (San Francisco Chronicle) Strong gains by energy companies and retailers helped nudge each of the major US stocks indexes to a record high close Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index and Nasdaq composite had previously hit new highs last Friday. The Nasdaq also notched a record close on Tuesday.

Energy stocks led the rally. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 117.86 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,613.52. The average is now up about 0.1 percent from its last record set July 20.

The S&P 500 index added 10.30 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,185.79. That's a gain of 0.13 percent from its previous high last Friday. The Nasdaq composite index gained 23.81 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,228.40. It edged up 0.1 percent from its previous high.

The latest market milestones reflect investors' improved confidence in the US economy of late. Strong job growth, more stable oil prices and a crop of better-than-expected company earnings have helped lift stocks in recent weeks.

Traders bid up oil prices in response to the International Energy Agency's latest forecast. The agency said it expects that supply and demand for oil will be more in balance the rest of this year. It also projected that global oil demand won't grow as much as it previously expected next year, citing a weaker global economy.

Germany's DAX gained 0.9 percent, while France's CAC 40 added 1.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.7 percent. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed 0.4 percent higher, while China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.5 percent. South Korea's KOSPI edged up 0.2 percent. Japan's stock exchange was closed for a holiday.

2 Alibaba grows globally (BBC) China's Alibaba has seen a sharp increase in international sales, a sign that it is finally making strides outside its home turf. Its latest results show international sales increased by 123% to 1.1bn yuan ($165m) between April and June. However, that figure still made up just 4% of Alibaba's overall revenue.

The e-commerce giant, founded the billionaire Jack Ma, is a well-known name throughout China but has struggled to break into markets like the US. The company, which is listed in the US, attributed a large portion of the increase in international sales to the purchase of Lazada - a Singapore based e-commerce firm. The deal was completed in mid-April.

Alibaba has expressed a clear desire to expand its presence internationally and plan for the next 10 to 20 years. As growth in the Chinese economy flags, this expansion will be more important. The company also reported the strongest earnings since it began selling shares on the stock exchange in 2014.

Alibaba also increased the number of sales by mobile users. The number of Chinese users buying products on Alibaba through their mobile phones rose to 427 million from 410 million in the three months previous. Mobile growth has been a key metric for investors who were concerned about whether the company could make this transition.

3 Global gold demand jumps 15% (Abdul Basit in Khaleej Times) Global demand for gold jumped 15 per cent in the second quarter but fell in major markets such as India and China. The Middle East was no exception as the region witnessed 20 per cent decline in terms of weight and 16 per cent in dollar value, the World Gold Council said in its report.

Challenging geopolitical and economic conditions continue to hamper the Middle Eastern markets, the council said. The high price level has taken its toll on the jewellery sector in the region, it added. Prices jumped by about one quarter in value during the first half.

Globally, the total gold demand stood at 1,050 tonnes in April-June period, showing an increase of 15 per cent compared with the second quarter of 2015. So first-half demand jumped to 2,335 tonnes - which was the second highest level for that period and not far from the record 2,371.5 tonnes seen in 2013.

The US election, the UK referendum on EU membership and possible implications of the Brexit outcome, the increasingly parlous state of Italy's banking sector; these have proved a potent combination as far as gold investors are concerned.

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