Wall Street soars yet again as Dow posts first close above 26,000; bitcoin crashes below US$10,000

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Jan 16, 2018.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Jan 16, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NE W YORK (AFP) - Wall Street shot past a fresh set of a milestones on Wednesday (Jan 17) as irrepressible investor appetite returned US stocks to their steady stream of record finishes.

Across the Atlantic, however, European equities churned lower as market players took their cue from downbeat sentiment in Asia.

Virtual currency bitcoin dived, falling below US$10,000 (S$13,270) for the first time in six weeks in what one analyst called a "cryptocalypse" as several digital currencies took a hammering. But bitcoin pared some of its losses in late US trading, to move back above US$11,000.

In New York, all three major indices set records, with the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ending above 26,000 points for the first time, just eight trading sessions after breaking through the 25,000-point barrier.

Maris Ogg of Tower Bridge Associates told AFP the sustained New York rally was boosted by a "confluence of good news," including strong company earnings, slashed corporate tax rates, higher worker compensation and new investment.

"This is a boost for productivity," and gave market players greater confidence, she said.

Aviation giant Boeing led the Dow higher on plans for a joint venture while rising oil prices helped lift energy stocks.

But in London, stocks fell "as traders opt to lock in profits following the latest rally," noted Russ Mould, investment director at online stockbroker AJ Bell.

Adding to the gloom, disappointing earnings eclipsed takeover activity in the British capital.

Publisher and conference organiser Informa revealed it was in talks to buy rival UBM to create a giant worth more than £9 billion (S$16.5 billion).

The deal is aimed at accelerating growth and slashing costs, the companies said in a statement. But investors were unconvinced, sending Informa shares tumbling.

The FTSE 100 was also punished as poor results from luxury fashion giant Burberry and publisher Pearson sent the two companies' share prices diving.

Tough times for bitcoin

Bitcoin fell below US$10,000 for the first time since early December, following on Tuesday's 15 percent slump.

The leading cryptocurrency is down from record highs approaching US$20,000 in the week before Christmas, having rocketed 25-fold over the year before being hit by concerns about a bubble and worries about crackdowns on trading in it.

"It's been a Cryptocalypse overnight with BTC (bitcoin) and other virtual currencies coming under heavy selling pressure," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

But Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers, sounded a slightly positive note: "Not all hope is lost. The cryptocurrency market is privy to these wild swings and seasoned veterans in this space have seen this happen many times previously." In Asia, most markets fell into the red with energy firms rocked by lower oil prices earlier in the week.

But Hong Kong stocks hit an all-time high to break a record that had been in place for more than 10 years.