Brent hits US$70 before retreating, euro soars

Brent has gained 5 per cent since the beginning of the year, picking up from its late-year surge.
Brent has gained 5 per cent since the beginning of the year, picking up from its late-year surge. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Brent crude prices hit US$70 a barrel on signs of tightening crude stocks but settled off that level on Thursday (Jan 11), while a jump in energy shares helped lift US stocks.

The S&P energy index jumped 2 per cent, leading gains among S&P sectors. Optimism about upcoming US earnings also helped U.S. stocks, which resumed their 2018 rally to hit record closing highs.

"The unifying factor of today's move and this whole week is a heightened confidence in the pace of economic activity. That helps explain the demand picture which has oil up at US$70," said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman, in New York.

Brent crude futures settled 6 cents higher at US$69.26, after hitting US$70.05 during the session, its highest level since November 2014. Brent's settlement still represents a three-year closing high.

Brent has gained 5 per cent since the beginning of the year, picking up from its late-year surge. US crude settled at US$63.80, up 23 cents, the highest since December 2014.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 205.6 points, or 0.81 per cent, to 25,574.73, the S&P 500 gained 19.33 points, or 0.70 per cent, to 2,767.56 and the Nasdaq Composite added 58.21 points, or 0.81 per cent, to 7,211.78.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 0.26 per cent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.38 per cent.

The euro jumped against the US dollar as the European Central Bank signaled it could begin to wind down its 2.5-trillion euro stimulus program this year.

The ECB should revisit its communication stance in early 2018, accounts of its December meeting showed, suggesting that policymakers could soon start preparing markets for the end of the bank's massive stimulus.

The dollar index fell 0.44 per cent, with the euro up 0.7 per cent to $1.2029.

US Treasury yields fell after China disputed a report that its government officials had recommended the country slow or halt its purchases of the US bonds. The Bloomberg News report had lifted yields on the 10-year government bond to a 10-month high on Wednesday.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 4/32 in price to yield 2.5367 per cent, from 2.549 per cent late on Wednesday.

Bitcoin was 4.8-per cent lower at US$14,168.95 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange after South Korea's government said it plans to ban cryptocurrency trading.