ECB bazooka fires stock markets higher

The European Central Bank`s bond-buying "bazooka" fired global stock markets higher on Friday, but sent the euro diving to a new 11-year dollar low.

London: The European Central Bank`s bond-buying "bazooka" fired global stock markets higher on Friday, but sent the euro diving to a new 11-year dollar low.

The ECB sparked a global rally Thursday after launching radical 1.14-trillion-euro ($1.15-trillion) bond-buying plans to boost lending and economic growth, while seeking to prevent a dangerous spiral of falling prices.

Equity investors welcomed the bank`s unprecedented quantitative easing (QE) stimulus, under which the ECB -- led by President Mario Draghi -- will buy up to 60 billion euros of assets per month until at least September 2016.

"Markets are still digesting yesterday`s bazooka from Mario Draghi and the ECB, with yields dropping sharply and equity markets pushing higher," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

"While asset prices surge it remains to be seen whether this extra cash will make that much difference in the absence of structural reforms."

In late morning deals, London`s benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies gained 0.35 percent to 6,820.10 points.

Frankfurt`s DAX 30 jumped 1.42 percent to 10,583 points and the CAC 40 in Paris won 1.61 percent to 4,626.10 compared with Thursday`s close.

The Madrid stock market added 1.50 percent and Milan rose 0.70 percent, also extending Thursday`s bumper gains.

Athens equities meanwhile surged by 5.55 percent, lifted by the stimulus news ahead of Sunday`s snap general election.

In Asia, Hong Kong climbed 1.34 percent, Tokyo jumped 1.05 percent, Sydney added 1.51 percent, while Shanghai rose 0.25 percent.

"ECB president Draghi launched an aggressive and open-ended extension of central bank asset purchases... providing a fillip for risk markets," said RIA Capital Markets analyst Nick Stamenkovic.

The euro however tumbled to another 11-year low at $1.1231 in morning London deals. That compared with $1.1359 late in New York on Thursday.

Analysts said the euro could slide further towards dollar parity as the ECB announcement underscores a growing policy divergence with the US Federal Reserve.

The Fed wrapped up its own QE programme in October and is now considering an interest rate hike this year.

"The key factor is that the ECB`s extension of QE is open ended," added Stamenkovic.

"In other words, if euro area inflation fails to rise in coming months then further purchases are likely as it attempts to restore price stability over the medium-term.

"By contrast, the Fed looks set to normalise monetary policy with a tightening expected in mid-2015. Hence the euro looks increasingly likely to reach (dollar) parity by year-end, if not sooner."

The ECB news also weighed on borrowing costs, with 10-year French, German, Spanish and Italian bond rates all striking record low levels.

Traders meanwhile remain cautious before the Sunday`s general election in Greece.

The looming ballot has raised concerns that a victory by the leftist Syriza party will force eurozone member Greece to renegotiate its bailout with international lenders.

"The potential for political uncertainty in Greece this Sunday evening will likely provide a further downside risk for the euro," cautioned analyst Jameel Ahmad at trading firm FXTM.

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