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European shares dip, Bitcoin hits record

·3-min read

World shares have dipped as investors awaited progress towards more US fiscal stimulus, while the dollar was set for a weekly loss and cryptocurrency Bitcoin hit a record high.

European shares fell at the start of trading, with the pan-European STOXX 600 index down 0.2 per cent on the day. Germany's DAX was down 0.7 per cent. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.35 per cent and France's CAC 40 fell 0.3 per cent.

Italy's FTSEMIB index fell 0.8 per cent on the day, with the country's bond yields were near record lows.

Markets in China and most of Southeast Asia are closed on Friday for the Lunar New Year. China's stock and bond markets, foreign exchange and commodity futures markets are closed through Feb. 17 for the holiday.

Futures for the S&P 500 declined 0.12 per cent.

MSCI's All Country World index, which tracks stocks across 49 countries, fell 0.15 per cent on the day, shy of record highs reached earlier this week.

Investors weighed some tepid economic data against increasing COVID-19 vaccinations and the prospect that more government spending and continued cheap money from central banks will drive higher growth and, eventually, inflation.

Investors will have to follow a "spike train", monitoring hospitalisations, stimulus, inflation, and volatility, said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, in his monthly letter to clients.

"Overall, we retain a favourable view of markets over our tactical investment horizon," he said. "While the `spike train' may lead to volatility, we don't think it will derail the bull market."

Earlier, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.2 per cent, trading just shy of a record high reached in the previous session. Australian stocks lost 0.63 per cent. Shares in Tokyo fell 0.14 per cent, pulling back from 30-year highs.

On Wall Street on Thursday, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 gained 0.4 per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.02 per cent.

Prices held near records as investors bet on more government spending, although enthusiasm was tempered when US President Joe Biden said that China was poised to "eat our lunch," raising fears of renewed strain on Sino-US ties.

US weekly unemployment claims fell less than expected and core consumer prices rose at a slower pace, which caused some traders to temper their optimism about the economic outlook.

Bitcoin reached a record high of $49,000 before erasing gains.

BNY Mellon's announcement that it would help clients hold, transfer and issue digital assets came just days after Elon Musk's Tesla said it had bought $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency and would accept it as a form of payment for its cars.

Spot gold fell 0.5 per cent to $1,816.91 per ounce. US gold futures fell 0.7 per cent to $1,813.6. Gold prices are still on track for their best week in three amid broad dollar selling.

The dollar index rose 0.25 per cent on Friday but was still on course for a 0.6 per cent weekly decline.

Soft demand at an auction of $27 billion of new 30-year Treasuries on Thursday rattled bond investors.

The yield on 10-year US Treasuries fell to 1.1532 per cent. The 30-year yield initially rose but then fell back to 1.9370 per cent.

Brent crude fell 1.05 per cent to $60.50 a barrel, having dropped half a per cent the previous session. US oil fell 1.2 per cent to $57.54 a barrel, after falling by 0.8 per cent on Thursday.

OPEC cut its demand forecast and the International Energy Agency said the market was still over-supplied, which cast a gloom over energy markets.