US stocks regain ground after worst week since October


US equities notched their biggest gain in more than two months on Monday, regaining lost ground after the struggle between Reddit’s day traders and Wall Street institutions helped to send stocks to their worst week since October.

The blue-chip S&P 500 index closed higher by 1.6 per cent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose more than 2.6 per cent, boosted by rallies in tech giants such as Alphabet and Amazon, which are due to report earnings this week.

Equities bounced back as investors looked past the trading tussle to focus instead on promising vaccine news on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The improvement of the health situation in the US [continues] to lift the market sentiment as the number of people currently hospitalised because of Covid is falling rapidly,” said Bastien Drut, senior strategist at CPR Asset Management, adding that “the US is one of the countries where the vaccine rollout is the quickest”.

The prospect of a bipartisan relief package also raised hopes of a targeted US response to the pandemic. “You’ve got 10 Republican senators heading off to the White House today, so there could be good news on the relief,” said Greg Swenson, founding partner of investment bank Brigg Macadam.

Further progress was being made in Europe in a dispute between the EU and AstraZeneca over the terms of a supply deal for Covid-19 vaccines. The drugmaker agreed to provide the bloc with 9m more jabs by March.

The region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 index closed up 1.2 per cent, having fallen more than 3 per cent last week, while London’s FTSE 100 climbed 0.9 per cent and Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax rose 1.4 per cent.

But investors remain braced for further hectic trading that led to day-trader favourites such as GameStop and AMC rallying last week. The Vix — an index that tracks expected volatility in US equities — was still elevated at 30, against its long-run average of about 20.

Line chart of $ per troy ounce showing silver has soared to 8-year high

A dramatic battle between retail investors on the Reddit message board and hedge fund short sellers spread to the silver market on Monday, with users in the website’s r/WallStreetBets forum urging investors to bet on a popular silver-backed exchange traded fund.

Prices for silver rose almost 10 per cent at one point on Monday to more than $30 a troy ounce, following a 6 per cent climb last week. Silver miners also prospered, with New York-listed First Majestic — another company identified by Redditors — rising almost 30 per cent during the week.

However, Joost van Leenders, senior investment strategist at Kempen Capital Management, said the mobilisation of scores of Reddit investors was not “a threat to the market at this point”.

“I don’t think the scale of money is large enough to drive the market,” he said, although “if the bubble of one of these stocks burst, it might make investors more cautious and cause some individual pain”.

In Asia, China’s CSI 300 index rose 1.2 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 2.2 per cent and South Korea’s Kospi advanced 2.7 per cent.


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