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Markets underwhelmed by US growth surge

By AFP - Jul 28,2018 - Last updated at Jul 28,2018

Onlookers watch share prices on a digital display on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai, on Thursday (AFP photo)

NEW YORK — Wall Street stocks on Friday finished the week on a downbeat note, with the tech-rich Nasdaq sinking 1.5 per cent on worries that US economic growth has peaked.

The American economy expanded at an annual rate of 4.1 per cent in the second quarter, matching analyst expectations, due in part to strong consumer spending and a trade-war driven bump in exports, according to Commerce Department data. That is the fastest growth in almost four years.

President Donald Trump hailed the figure as an "American economic miracle", promising more impressive growth ahead.

But US investors seemed to be betting on the opposite, sending stocks lower and punishing technology companies especially hard.

"There's a general sense that maybe we're hitting peak growth," said Jack Ablin of Cresset Wealth Advisors.

Ablin said the tech sector was vulnerable because it is tied more closely to growth than some sectors and because of worries that rising political and social scrutiny of Facebook and others that could crimp growth.

The declines in the United States also followed a largely disappointing round of earnings, with Exxon Mobil, Intel and Twitter all falling significantly.

European shares closed with higher gains. London finished 0.5 per cent higher, with shares in telecoms group BT rising more than 5 per cent after posting better-than-expected first-quarter earnings.

Paris climbed 0.6 per cent while Frankfurt added 0.4 per cent in value, aided partly by this week's easing in EU-US trade tensions.

Asian stocks mostly edged higher Friday with Tokyo buoyed once more by a weaker yen, which helps exporters.

 

 'Come off the boil' 

 

While the strong US growth rate was welcome, analysts said investors had plenty to worry about from here on.

"The US economy is likely to come off the boil in the coming quarters as the boost to growth delivered by the tax cuts begins to wear off, trade restrictions and an overall slowing of the global economy start to weigh on exports, and further interest rate hikes tighten financial conditions," said economist Pablo Shah at the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

He said the growth rate was nonetheless impressive, and that the strong labour market together with still-accommodative fiscal and monetary policies meant the United States was likely to remain at the top of the growth pack among advanced nations.

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