After setting a new all-time high shortly after the opening, at 8229 points, the Paris Bourse ceded some of its gains: at the final gong, the Paris index nevertheless ended the session up 0.22%, at 8179 points, helped by Teleperformance (+2.5%) and URW (+1.9%).

Investors welcomed the Federal Reserve's announcements, confirming yesterday that it was still planning three rate cuts this year (compared with 7 to 8 expected by the end of 2023).

The Fed left rates unchanged, as expected, on Wednesday evening, but its statement hinted that slowing - albeit uneven - inflation could allow it to ease monetary policy in the months ahead.

The Fed's much-anticipated new interest rate projections, the so-called "dot plots", continue to show three rate cuts in 2024, followed by three further reductions in the cost of money in 2025.

According to the CME's FedWatch barometer, traders now rate the probability of a June rate cut at nearly 72%, compared with 60% before the Fed meeting.

The session was punctuated by a number of statistics, such as US sales of existing homes.
These rose by 9.5% between January and February to reach 4.38 million annualized and seasonally adjusted (SA), according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The median selling price reached $384,500, up 5.7% year-on-year, and the stock of unsold existing homes rose by 5.9% to reach 1.07 million at the end of February, or 2.9 months at the current rate of absorption.

Growth in the US private sector was slightly less dynamic in March, despite good form in manufacturing.

In addition, according to S&P Global's latest PMI survey of managers, the composite 'flash' index - which measures activity in services and industry - eased to 52.2 this month, from 52.5 last month.

In services, the PMI fell back to 51.7, after 52.3 in February, but recovered to 52.5 in the manufacturing sector, from 52.2 last month, to reach an almost two-year high.

The index of leading indicators in the United States rebounded in February, however, thanks in particular to a healthy stock market, announced the Conference Board employers' organization on Thursday.

This leading indicator, which is supposed to forecast the general trend in US economic activity over the coming months, rose by 0.1% last month, following a decline of 0.4% in January (compared with an expected -0.2%).

Despite this positive surprise, the ConfBoard says it sees factors likely to weigh on growth, which it sees slowing in the second and third quarters due to the impact of high interest rates on consumer spending.

Almost 24% of companies reported an increase in overall activity this month, while 21% reported decreases; 52% reported no change.

The new orders index returned to positive territory for the first time since October, rising from -5.2 in February to 5.4 in March. The current shipments index rose by 1 point to 11.4 in March, its highest level since August 2022.

Overall, companies continued to report a decline in employment. The employment index rose by 1 point to stand at -9.6 in March, the 11th negative figure in 13 months.

Like its US counterpart, the Bank of England also opted for a 'status quo' at lunchtime, but the market is anticipating the start of a shift in monetary policy in the second half of the year.

In Europe, the morning was dominated by the publication of the latest PMI activity indicators for the eurozone: the HCOB flash composite PMI index for overall activity in the eurozone stood at 49.9 in March, compared with 49.2 in February, signalling a near-stabilization of activity levels in March.

With lower energy prices and the prospect of an ECB rate cut in June, there is every reason to expect sentiment to improve", predict the economists at Oddo BHF.

On the bond market, US government bonds reacted very timidly to the Fed's press release: after -1Pt the previous day, the '10-yr' recovered +1Pt to 4.28%.
It's a little more positive in Europe, with OATs down 2.5pts to 2.85% and Bunds down 3pts to 2.4050%.

The greenback has fully recovered the -0.6% lost the previous day, and is back up to $1.086 against the euro.
The gold ounce broke through $2,200, then settled at $2,180, up 0.9%.

In French company news, Korean Air signed a contract with Airbus for the purchase of 33 A350 family aircraft. The deal, which includes 27 A350-1000s and six A350-900s, is valued at $13.7 billion.

The French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) has taken delivery of the two Rafale two-seaters 'B364' and 'B363' at the Dassault Aviation site in Mérignac (Gironde), as announced by the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.

Orpea gains 3% after +20% the previous day, with investors hailing the nursing home operator's name change to 'emeis' as a 'new stage in its history'.

Thales announces that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Skyguide to promote open architectures in air traffic management (ATM) systems, based on Thales's OpenSky platform.

Orange reports that Totem, Orange's TowerCo subsidiary, has begun deploying 5G in the tunnels of the future Line 15 South of the Grand Paris Express.

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