NEW YORK: Bitcoin hit a new record high on Friday and surpassed US$1 trillion in market capitalization, while European and US equities were mixed as optimism over coronavirus vaccines and stimulus competed with inflation fears.
The digital unit zoomed to another record at around $56,000, meaning that the combined value of all bitcoin now stands above one trillion dollars, according to data provider Coinmarketcap.com.
Oil prices sank meanwhile, as some companies began slowly restarting operations in the US producer state of Texas, where refineries have been hammered by a cold snap.
Meanwhile, data showed that the eurozone’s economy is being hit hard by a new wave of lockdowns but the damage will be less severe than last year’s virus-induced crash.
The closely watched PMI index compiled by IHS Markit rose to 48.1 points in February from 47.8 points in January, closer to the 50-point level which would have indicated growth.
However, businesses also expressed confidence that vaccinations would allow economic activity to rebound in the coming months, IHS Markit added.
Both Frankfurt and Paris added 0.8%, as investors digested upbeat German and French manufacturing figures.
In Britain, London stocks stayed in positive territory even though the pound rose above $1.40 for the first time in almost three years and retail sales dropped sharply in January as the country entered another lockdown.
Sterling breached the symbolic level for the first time since April 2018, reaching $1.4036.
The currency was propelled by a vaccination drive that has boosted economic recovery hopes and eclipsed news of a lockdown-driven slump in retail sales, dealers said.
The latest UK PMI came in at 49.8, close to the benchmark 50- point level, and was a major improvement from January’s reading of 41.2, which analysts took as a sign the British economy was stabilising.
Inflation risk weighed
Back in the US, major indices finished near flat after a choppy week.
Appearing at a pharmaceutical plant in Michigan, US President Joe Biden again called for Congress to boldly boost the coronavirus-ravaged US economy and enact his $1.9 trillion rescue package.
In another propitious development for markets and the country, Pfizer and BioNTech said research showed their Covid-19 vaccine could be stored at standard freezer temperatures, potentially lowering the costs and logistical challenges of widespread inoculation against the deadly virus.
But a jump in yields on 10-year US Treasury notes amid inflation worries “appears to be keeping gains in check,” said a market note from Charles Schwab.
Among those not concerned about inflation is IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath, estimating that with the full amount of stimulus, inflation “would reach around 2.25% in 2022, which is nothing to be concerned about,” she said in a blog post.
Key figures around 2130 GMT
New York – Dow: FLAT at 31,494.32 (close)
New York – S&P 500: DOWN 0.2% at 3,906.71 (close)
New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.1% at 13,874.46 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1% at 6,624.02 (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 0.8% at 13,993.23 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.8% at 5,773.55 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.9% at 3,713.46 (close)
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.7% at 30,017.92 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2% at 30,644.73 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.6% at 3,696.17 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2114 from $1.2092 at 2200 GMT
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4004 from $1.3975
Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.48 pence from 86.53 pence
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.46 yen from 105.69 yen
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.6% at $62.91 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 2.1% at $59.24 per barrel