World stock indexes were mostly higher on Thursday after President Joe Biden held his first conversation with Chinese leader Xi Jinping since taking office, though there was no indication of any major change in U.S. trade policy.
Many markets in Asia were closed for the Lunar New Year and other holidays. Benchmarks in Paris, Frankfurt and Hong Kong, rose, while London was flat. U.S. futures edged higher.
With much of Asia celebrating the traditional start of the Year of the Ox, there is little in the way of fresh market driving news likely for the rest of the week from the region.
In their phone conversation, Biden and Xi appeared to have struck a conciliatory tone, Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.
U.S. officials have signaled Washington will keep in place export restrictions on technology and tariffs imposed by the previous administration of President Donald Trump.
But investors and businesses in the region are hoping a more even-keeled approach to relations between the two biggest economies by the Biden administration might help minimize future shocks to trade and investment.
“The new normal remains mostly intact, although financial markets long-ago took it in their stride," Halley said. “The initial contact appears to have been civilized though, and for that, the rest of the world can be grateful."
Germany's DAX edged 0.1% higher to 13,949.43 while the CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.3% to 5,688.80. Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 6,527.11. The future for the S&P 500 gained 0.2% to 3,909.10 while the contract for the Dow industrials also gained 0.2%, to 31,302.00.
Markets have been lifted by surprisingly good company earnings reports, indications that a recent surge in new coronavirus cases is easing, progress in the distribution of vaccines and signs that lawmakers in Washington are moving toward delivering another financial boost for the economy.
A U.S. government report released Wednesday showed that inflation remained tame last month, reassuring investors that the economy can absorb more stimulus without overheating.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.5% to 30,173.57 and the Sensex in India edged 0.2% higher to 51,382.86. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.1% to 6,850.10. Markets were closed in Tokyo, Taiwan, Seoul and Shanghai.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 slipped less than 0.1% to 3,909.88 after swinging between a gain of 0.5% and a loss of 0.7%. Nearly 60% of the companies in the benchmark index rose, though a slide in technology stocks and companies that provide consumer services and products kept those gains in check.
The Dow rose 0.2% to 31,437.80. The Nasdaq lost 0.3% to 13,972.53. The Russell 2000 index of small companies fell 0.7%, to 2,282.44.
The Labor Department said Wednesday that U.S. consumer prices rose 0.3% in January, led by a surge in energy. It was the biggest monthly increase since July, but inflation over the past year has remained a modest 1.4%. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, is also up 1.4%, with core prices unchanged in January.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note ticked up to 1.15%. It was as a high as 1.20% earlier this week.
Investors are watching inflation metrics more closely as Democrats in Congress prepare to inject $1.9 trillion of stimulus into the economy. U.S. businesses are starting to reopen and millions of Americans are now vaccinated, meaning there could be a surge of economic activity that could drive prices higher. So far, much of the extra money being channeled into economies appears to be lodging in financial markets.
In other trading Thursday, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 39 cents to $58.29 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 32 cents to $58.68 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard for pricing, declined 39 cents to $61.08 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar rose to 104.66 Japanese yen from 104.59 yen. The euro slipped to $1.2119 from $1.2120.