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US: Stocks hit new records; weak British data hits pound


[NEW YORK] US stocks resumed their upwards push on Friday, while the British pound retreated after weak economic data revived talk of monetary stimulus.

The S&P 500 climbed to yet another record in New York, as a four-week rally was revived after a brief decline Thursday.

US stocks have repeatedly broken records since the surprise June 23 vote by Britain to exit the European Union.

"It's more of a trend-following trade going on. There's nothing fundamentally that I could see that would cause stocks to go higher," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

British business activity sank in July to its lowest level since April 2009, according to research group Markit.

"The downturn, whether manifesting itself in order book cancellations, a lack of new orders or the postponement or halting of projects, was most commonly attributed in one way or another to Brexit," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

Williamson said that the new data could persuade policymakers to act.

"With policymakers waiting to see hard data on the state of the economy before considering more stimulus, the slump ... will provide a powerful argument for swift action," he said.

The pound fell sharply against the dollar, while the FTSE 100 climbed 0.5 per cent.

Equity markets in Paris and Frankfurt were little changed as data showed economic activity in the eurozone fell in July but only slightly, according to Markit.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 1.1 after the BBC aired a month-old interview with Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda in which he said there was "no need and no possibility" for so-called helicopter money - cash funneled from the central bank directly to the economy - to be part of any fresh support for the economy.

The interview dimmed hopes for aggressive stimulus in Japan.

On Wall Street, Dow component General Electric fell 1.6 per cent due to disappointment over the level of industrial orders announced with second-quarter earnings.

Schlumberger advanced 2.0 per cent despite reporting a second-quarter loss of US$2.2 billion as it said it believes the oil services market has bottomed.

Japanese game maker Nintendo rose 0.8 per cent as investors cheered the rollout of Pokemon Go in Japan, a couple weeks after its initial launch set off a worldwide mania.