Fresh stock market records in US, Europe as yen hits 34-year low

The yen's drop to a 34-year low has sparked speculation that Japanese officials will intervene in currency markets (Richard A. Brooks)
The yen's drop to a 34-year low has sparked speculation that Japanese officials will intervene in currency markets (Richard A. Brooks)

Wall Street and European stock markets mostly rose on Wednesday, leading to fresh records, while the yen temporarily sank to a 34-year low against the dollar before recovering somewhat.

US stocks shrugged off lackluster sessions earlier in the week, with the S&P 500 finishing at a new all-time high.

Analysts pointed to a dynamic of "window dressing," whereby money managers add shares to show enough equity holdings at the end of a quarter.

The broad-based S&P 500 finished at 5,248.49, up 0.9 percent, topping a record set last week. The index has risen more than 10 percent this year.

Investors are eyeing Friday's release of the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation -- the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, although US markets will be closed for trading that day.

"Quarter-end and Friday's inflation reading are likely to keep any bullishness in check, but the fundamentals point towards further gains in April and beyond," said Chris Beauchamp, Chief Market Analyst at online trading platform IG.

But Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research, said the market could remain in a holding pattern in the coming period.

"A digestion of recent gains is still a possibility, as the market remains priced to perfection," Stovall said.

The Frankfurt DAX rose 0.5 percent to a new record high even as leading German economic institutes lowered the 2024 growth forecast for Europe's top economy to 0.1 percent.

Paris added 0.3 percent to also close at a record high and London finished flat.

Hong Kong and Shanghai closed more than one percent lower.

But a drop in the yen boosted Tokyo stocks.

The Japanese currency fell to 151.97 to the dollar in Asian trading hours after a top Bank of Japan official indicated that it would press ahead with a loose monetary policy after last week's first interest rate hike since 2007.

The weaker yen helped spur a rally in Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei stocks index as exporters benefited, making it Asia's best performer.

But the Japanese currency bounced off of that low, trading at 151.34 near 2020 GMT.

Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told reporters the government was "monitoring market movements with a high sense of urgency" and "will take resolute action against excessive moves, without ruling out any options."

- Key figures around 2020 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 1.2 percent at 39,760.08 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.9 percent at 5,248.49 (close)

New York - Nasdaq Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 16,399.52 (close)

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,931.98 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 at 8,204.81 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.5 percent at 18,477.09 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 5,081.74 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.9 percent at 40,762.73 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.4 percent at 16,392.84 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.3 percent at 3,993.14 (close)

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 151.34 yen from 151.56 yen on Monday

Euro/dollar: FLAT at $1.0831

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2641 from $1.2628

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.66 pence from 85.77 pence

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $86.09 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.3 percent at $81.35 per barrel