Equity markets have continued their ascent albeit with continuing volatility around the Q1 earnings season. Other indicators of market stress have also improved whilst bond yields haved edged higher. Next week will test the markets optimism with a plethora of banks set to release their results for the past quarter. Wells Fargo provided a boost to financials today with its earnings report. Banks will benefit from the changes to mark to market accounting regulations allowing banks more flexibility in valuing their dodgy assets. Although I am somewhat concerned about the political push for the change in these accounting rules it will no doubt ease some of the pressure on banks and their estimates of writedowns.
Meanwhile the economic news continues to be less negative as the bigger than expected narrowing in the US trade deficit reveals. This adds to the run of better than expected numbers over recent weeks that is perhaps showing that the pace of economic deterioration globally is easing. The economic news has also contributed to the better tone to equities and improvement in risk appetite.
Action to prevent the economic and financial crisis from deepening is also creating a floor under markets. The Bank of England left interest rates unchanged but maintained its commitment to conduct asset purchases having done around 1/3 of the planned GBP 75 billion so far, with the remainder to be undertaken over the next couple of months. Elsewhere Japan will provide further fiscal stimulus to boost its flagging economy although the unstable political situation could yet derail such plans. Nonetheless, the picture is clear as policy makers continue their battle to boost sentiment and thaw credit markets.
If markets can get through Q1 earnings without a major set back there maybe hope that the rally really has got legs. I still think there is a whiff of a bear market rally going on but I would happy to be proved wrong.