World shares gained for a second day yesterday as speculation grew that European leaders would agree on fresh action to tackle the region's debt crisis at an informal meeting later this week, and on reports China plans measures to boost sagging growth.
The FTSE Eurofirst index of top European shares was up 0.6 per cent at 980.84, extending a recovery from five-month lows hit on Monday, with miners such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton leading the gains.
Key US stock market indexes were also expected to open higher and could get a boost if existing home sales data, due later yesterday, confirmed signs of a recovery in the housing market.
MSCI's global equity index was up 0.4 per cent to 302.52 for a gain of about 1.5 per cent from lows hit last week, when investors, responding to talk of a possible exit by Greece from the Eurozone, shunned riskier assets.The selloff has increased the pressure on European Union leaders to come up with some new measures to ease the crisis and stimulate growth at a dinner today, but there is plenty of scepticism that any deal will be reached.
"I doubt any news out of the meeting will be able to create a positive environment," said Niels Christensen, FX strategist at Nordea.
"Even if the political leaders were to pull an agreement out of the hat we need something that's going to take immediate effect."
The euro was down 0.4 per cent against the dollar at around $1.2760 (Dh5.977), though moves were limited by the large number of speculators holding short positions in the single currency.
Any progress at today's EU leaders meeting has the potential to force heavy losses on these investors but the prospect of a disappointing outcome is high, while the crisis in Greece and worries about the solvency of Spanish banks linger.
France's new President Francois Hollande is expected to use the EU meeting to push for the issuance of Eurozone bonds, underwritten by all member states, to help struggling countries in the 17-member currency bloc.
However, Germany's long-standing opposition to this idea without closer European Union integration is not expected to change.
The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has added its weight to calls for European leaders to at least ease the pace of the German-led austerity measures, which are crippling growth across the region.
"The risk is increasing of a vicious circle, involving high and rising sovereign indebtedness, weak banking systems, excessive fiscal consolidation and lower growth," said Pier Carlo Padoan, the OECD's chief economist.
In its twice-yearly econ-omic outlook released yesterday, the OECD forecast that global growth would ease to 3.4 per cent this year from 3.6 per cent in 2011, with the Eurozone crisis the main risk to achieving this target.
Meanwhile the dollar has gained about 0.2 per cent against a basket of currencies, boosted partly by a fall in the yen after the Fitch ratings agency downgraded Japan on worries about its high level of public debt.
Talk that some form of EU action could emerge did ease tensions in the European debt markets, with Spanish and Italian government bond yields falling, and investors using the opportunity to pocket profits in German government bonds.
The German June Bund future was 15 ticks down at 143.35 with German ten-year yields up three basis points at 1.46 per cent.
Spanish ten-year government bond yields fell ten basis points to 6.19 per cent, while equivalent Italian yields fell 12 basis points to 5.82 per cent but Irish and Portuguese yields rose.
The fall in Spanish bond yields came despite another rise in Spain's short-term borrowing costs at an auction yesterday, and after a leading bank group warned the country's banking sector could need another ¤76 billion ($97 billion) to cover loan losses as the economy in Spain worsens.
Debt traders also questioned whether the improved tone in the market would last.
"There's this delusion of a quick fix either via monetary policy with the European Central Bank or via some kind of fiscal decision but unfortunately this won't happen," said Matteo Regesta, a strategist at BNP Paribas.
The Chinese government gave some support to investor sentiment by hinting it is preparing measures to boost sagging growth in the world's second largest economy.
The China Securities Journal said yesterday the government plans to speed up approval of infrastructure construction projects to improve the economy.