* China Q2 GDP matches consensus, monthly activity data upbeat
* Europe dithers, MSCI world creeps towards highest since Feb 2018
* MSCI ex-Japan reverse losses; Chinese, HK shares bounce off lows
* Aussie dollar climbs, Morgan Stanley says re-enters short USD/JPY trade
* Oil see-saws, industrial metals nudge higher
* World FX rates in 2019 http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
By Marc Jones
LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – Surprisingly upbeat economic soundings from China pushed world shares towards an 18-month high and steered the Aussie dollar upwards on Monday, as Citigroup delivered Wall Street’s first heavyweight beat of the new earnings season.
Investors were picking through Citigroup’s 7% profit jump and waiting on what could be a prickly G7 finance chiefs meeting in France later in the week, but there was already plenty to get on with.
China’s second-quarter annual GDP growth rate fell to a 27-year low of 6.2% as expected, but its quarterly growth reading of 1.6% was ahead of forecasts along with June reports on industrial production, retail sales and urban investment.
Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets had ended marginally positive, only held back by the concern that such a brisk pickup in activity may see economic policymakers ease back on the monetary and fiscal stimulus measures that were deemed largely responsible for the acceleration.
A report by Reuters that Washington may approve licenses for companies to restart new sales to Huawei in as little as two weeks also improved the mood in China’s tech sector, while Europe eventually found traction to edge MSCI’s world index close to February 2018 highs.
“It is no surprise that China is slowing down and if you look at the other components of the data like retail sales and industrial production, they are looking a little bit better than expected,” said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.
“Traders seem to be content to maintain a bit of optimism.”
With the S&P 500 starting above 3,000 points for the first time and pointing higher still, markets are confident the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut its key interest rate by at least a quarter point late this month.
Corporate results are also now key. According to Refinitiv IBES data, S&P 500 companies are expected, on average, to see their year-on-year profits dip 0.4% this earnings season, which would be the first quarterly decline in three years.
Citigroup’s forecast-topping numbers came as it kept a tight lid on costs and strength in consumer lending helped the third-largest U.S. bank counter weakness in its trading business.
Fellow bulge-bracket banks JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo will report on Tuesday while Bank of America Corp as well as Netflix, Microsoft and Honeywell are all due later in the week.
In currency markets, the Australian dollar, often played as a liquid proxy for the Chinese yuan, sprang to its highest since July 4 against the dollar as the greenback ticked higher against the yen and Swiss franc.
At 12.39%, the Vix volatility gauge had its lowest close since April. Ten-year U.S. Treasury yields continued to nudge higher, with the yield curve between three months and 10 years — whose inversion for much of the past two months was widely seen as a harbinger of recession over the next couple of years — back probing positive territory for the first time since mid-May.
Most euro zone government bond yields edged down from recent 3 1/2-week highs, although the mixed signals from the global economy meant it was all small in scale.
Germany’s benchmark 10-year bond yield was down just a basis point at minus 0.25%, edging off Friday’s 3 1/2-week high but still about 16 basis points above record lows reached earlier this month.
Germany’s Economy Ministry said it expected the economy — Europe’s largest — to turn in a weak second quarter and that there remain significant risks from the ongoing trade conflicts and Britain’s expected departure from the European Union.
The euro barely budged though from $1.1281 as it stuck well within its recent trading range of $1.14 to $1.11.
“The whole movement in bonds lost steam last week,” said Norbert Wuthe, a rates strategist at Bayerische Landesbank.
Commodities markets struggled to make up their minds about how to interpret the Chinese data.
Brent crude see-sawed down first and then up to $67.02. U.S. crude wobbled around $60 a barrel, although that also came after both contracts had posted their biggest weekly gains in three weeks last week on diplomatic tensions in the Middle East and cuts in U.S. oil production.
Gold slipped to 1,412 an ounce, drifting away from a recent six-year top of $1,438.60, but China-sensitive industrial metal copper climbed and nickel prices were boosted by additional supply worries from major producer Indonesia.
“This (China data) is a big relief. It seems that the government’s support has eventually had some positive impact on the economy, especially in the seasonally weak month of June,” said analyst Helen Lau of Argonaut Securities.
Later in the week, U.S. retail sales and industrial production data will provide clues about the health of the world’s largest economy. The U.S. Federal Reserve will release its ‘Beige Book’ on Wednesday, which investors will scour for comments on how trade tensions were affecting the business outlook.
(Additional reporting Dhara Ranasinghe in London and Mai Nguyen in Singapore; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Catherine Evans)