Global stocks stabilize ahead of Big Tech earnings and as China pledges to support its COVID-hit economy

Trader points at screen at NYSE
A trader works on the trading floor on the last day of trading before Christmas at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 23, 2021.Andrew Kelly/Reuters
  • Global stocks trod water on Tuesday as investors awaited Big Tech earnings and weighed China economic support.

  • Softer guidance from mega-cap tech stocks could send markets back to square one, an analyst said.

  • Nasdaq futures dipped slightly after Twitter accepted Elon Musk's $44 billion buyout offer.

Global stocks showed overall stability Tuesday as China pledged to boost monetary support for its COVID-19 stricken economy, although US index futures dipped ahead of the start of this week's Big Tech earnings.

Futures on the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and Nasdaq fell 0.2% each as of 4:20 a.m. ET, suggesting a lower start to US trading later in the day.

The MSCI World Index, which tracks markets in several developed and emerging nations, rose modestly by 0.2%.

The first-quarter earnings season will kick into high gear this week, with results from tech heavyweights, starting with Microsoft and Alphabet on Tuesday.

"Both should have had impressive quarters, but the real meat in the sandwich will be their 2022 outlooks going forward," said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at Oanda. "Softer guidance will have stock markets back to square one once again."

Johan Javeus, chief strategist at SEB Research, said the tolerance for tech stock underperformance is minimal.

On Monday, the Nasdaq rallied even before Twitter agreed to sell the company to Elon Musk in a deal valued at $44 billion.

"The point here is the market doesn't quite know if it's arrogance leading the way or genius," Dan Lane, senior analyst at Freetrade, said. "Musk flits between both regularly. Let's see which one this is, and if taking his eye off the Tesla ball for a while is worth it."

The key theme in financial markets now appears to be one of risk aversion, with concerns over global growth leading to sell-offs in risk assets as anxiety about China's coronavirus outbreak dragging into a fourth week has sparked growth concerns.

"Markets reacted to the news of possible new lockdowns on Monday in a classic 'risk off' mode, with investors spooked that weaker demand in Asia's largest economy could hurt global growth," Matthew Ryan, senior market analyst at Ebury, said.

But one positive is the Chinese central bank saying it will ease monetary policy and support the economy, sparking some optimism in Asian equities.

"The PBOC will step up the prudent monetary policy's support to the real economy, especially for industries and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic," the People's Bank of China said on Tuesday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2% and Tokyo's Nikkei rose 0.4%. The Shanghai Composite fell 1.4%.

Markets have also been fretting about the pace of aggressive central bank tightening after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said a 50 basis point rate hike was on the table at the May meeting. This has sparked concern that the US economy, which had just begun to recover from the pandemic, could tip into recession.

Other concerns affecting market sentiment are new Russian threats. After Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday that the US wants to "see Russia weakened," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned there's a "real danger" of a Third World War breaking out.

But European equities rallied Tuesday as investors weighed mixed results from European banks, including HSBC and UBS, and China's policy boost.

London's FTSE 100 rose 0.7%. The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 rose 0.6% and Frankfurt's DAX added 1%.

Oil prices traded in a narrow range from Monday's level as supply worries persist, with more buyers turning away from Russian oil even without a formal European embargo.

Brent crude futures fell 0.6% to $101.41 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate fell 0.9% to $97.66 a barrel.

Read more: Under the radar stock picks: An investing expert lays out how to find US equities winners that can outpace the S&P 500 — and reveals 10 'unglamorous' gems poised for stellar returns

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