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U.S. stocks surge on robust growth data as European markets diverge amid ECB caution

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Wall Street indices has experienced notable gains on Thursday, propelled by robust economic growth data in the United States. The Commerce Department reported a faster-than-anticipated annual expansion of 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter, fueled by a resilient job market and consumer spending. Concurrently, the stability of manufactured goods orders in December provided additional support to the optimistic market sentiment.

Callie Cox, a U.S. investment analyst at eToro, noted that the markets, driven by optimism stemming from improved confidence, manufacturing, and housing data, are anticipating a positive trajectory. There is growing hope that the U.S. economy is navigating toward a “soft landing,” potentially avoiding a severe downturn despite the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes.

However, the European Central Bank (ECB) tempered market enthusiasm by signaling a cautious approach, indicating that it is premature to contemplate interest rate cuts. The ECB opted to maintain steady rates, emphasizing a commitment to sustaining the existing levels for a “sufficiently long duration” to contribute significantly to achieving its two-percent inflation target.

In both the United States and Europe, cooling inflation has raised expectations of potential interest rate cuts by the Fed and ECB, which were previously raised to curb consumer prices. While London’s FTSE 100 index saw gains, Paris and Frankfurt experienced declines, reflecting the nuanced economic landscape in Europe. Germany, the largest economy in the Eurozone, continued to face economic challenges, with business morale declining in January.

As U.S. shares reached new record highs, concerns emerged about the sustainability of the recent rally. Market analyst Fawad Razaqzada at City Index pointed out that the surge in equities, driven by optimism around top tech companies and AI, might face a correction once this exuberance fades. Leading tech stocks, such as Microsoft, IBM, and Alphabet, experienced gains, contrasting with electric car maker Tesla’s decline due to missed earnings estimates and a projected slowdown in vehicle growth for 2024.

Amidst these market dynamics, oil prices climbed over one percent, responding to a larger-than-expected fall in U.S. crude stockpiles, while the dollar remained relatively stable against most currencies. The intricate interplay of economic indicators and global factors continues to shape the trajectory of financial markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

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