By Alun John and Lawrence White
HONG KONG / LONDON, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Global stocks continued their recent rally on Thursday, as bonds and safe-haven currencies eased as markets welcomed signs that the omicron variant of COVID-19 it could be less serious than feared, along with strong economic data from the United States.
* The pan-European STOXX 600 index gained 0.3% after the advance in Asia. The Japanese Nikkei improved 0.57% and MSCI’s broader Asia-Pacific equity index excluding Japan advanced 0.8%.
* Stocks were heading for a third straight day of gains, rebounding from Monday’s hit, when concern about the new variant of the coronavirus pushed investors toward safe assets like the dollar.
* “Recent health data from the UK and elsewhere indicate worst-case scenario is unlikely: although transmission rates (of omicron) are reportedly higher, this variant appears less virulent and less likely to cause serious disease or death, “said David Chao of Invesco.
* Major US benchmarks closed higher overnight, following data that showed consumer confidence in the country continued to improve in December and the White House said it was resuming talks on a massive social spending bill and on climate change with wayward senator Joe Manchin.
* Foreign exchange markets were operating in line with the “risk” environment and the dollar index fell to 96.018 units, its lowest since December 17, before recovering slightly to 96.128.
* Recent losses in the dollar have been quite widespread, with the euro improving in the last four sessions and the Australian dollar – often seen as an indicator of risk appetite – has gained 1.2% on the week.
* The yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasuries was trading at 1.4618%, in the middle of its recent range.
* Oil prices were slightly down at 1033 GMT, after posting gains earlier in the day as increased travel restrictions in countries like China and Australia undermined optimism generated by some positive omicron news.
* Spot gold advanced 0.17% to $ 1,806 an ounce, helped by a weak dollar.
(Edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)