FTSE 100 battles back

Bears are queuing up to call an end to this nine-year equities bull market after a poor run and jump in treasury yields sent Wall Street to two-week lows. A largely muted response to many of this US earnings season’s knockout numbers is also a concern and, despite cheap stock and largely positive economic fundamentals, a modest rebound in sterling is keeping some aging bulls on the sidelines.

The FTSE 100 (UKX) has hit two significant technical levels in the past few sessions, and a bounce off Wednesday’s low is certainly a positive indicator. Up 4.3% already in April, the blue-chip index is still on track for its best month since December 2016.

It’s not clear yet whether already nervous investors will decide to sell in May this year, although there is certainly enough to make them think twice about holding stock over the riskier and statistically weaker summer months. Remaining bulls will be dusting off the tin hats.

Source: interactive investor                Past performance is not a guide to future performance

Of the major central banks, only the Federal Reserve’s policymakers have been kept busy this year, and there’s little chance that the ECB will adjust its wait-and-see stance, preferring to hold fire until summer before confirming an end to QE.

Currency markets will be on standby during Mario Draghi’s post-decision press conference, just in case. The Bank of Japan has no reason to tinker with the system at its latest meeting either. We’ll find out overnight.

Surging crude prices are good news for the oil majors and their shareholders, and it was no different for Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) during its first quarter. A 42% increase in quarterly profit on a current cost of supplies (CCS) basis, excluding one-offs, justifies investor enthusiasm for the stock since the most recent leg of an oil price recovery which began in February.

Shell shares are up 18% in the past five weeks, but still offer income seekers a yield of over 5%, well covered by free cash flow.

The sale of $30 billion of unwanted assets also continues apace and $25 billion of share buybacks over the next couple of years could prove a useful prop for the shares.

Prices appear well underpinned by OPEC’s successful production agreement, Saudi Arabia’s backing for higher prices, and the threat of disruption to supplies from Iran.

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