Stocks and oil touch 2019 highs; sterling wobbles, like Brexit

Stocks and oil touch 2019 highs; sterling wobbles, like Brexit

NEW YORK,. Stocks across the globe rose for a seventh straight session yesterday despite late selling on Wall Street, while the pound wobbled against the dollar as traders expected European Union officials would allow Britain a delay on Brexit.

Bets that the Federal Reserve will this week reinforce the market view that the US monetary policy tightening cycle is in the rear-view mirror have kept alive the bid on stocks, while the dollar index touched its lowest since March 1.

But trade news weighed on sentiment late in the New York trading session after Bloomberg News reported that some negotiators are worried that China is pushing back against US demands.

“Trade fear has reared its head again with Trump administration concerns (that) China is walking back some of the pledges they’ve made in negotiations so far,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Alliance in Charlotte.

Investor focus will remain on the Fed today, particularly on whether policymakers have sufficiently lowered their interest rate forecasts to align more closely their “dot plot,” which shows individual policymakers’ rate views for the next three years, with market expectations.

The CitiFX US economic surprise index, which measures economic data against expectations, has been negative for over a month and earlier in March touched its lowest since August 2017.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 26.72 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 25,887.38, the S&P 500 lost 0.37 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 2,832.57 and the Nasdaq Composite added 9.47 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 7,723.95.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.57 per cent and emerging market stocks added 0.16 per cent.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.16 per cent.

Brexit options

In currency markets, sterling touched US$1.3311 after slipping to as low as US$1.3241 as traders expected EU officials to give Britain a delay on Brexit negotiations, though the uncertainty kept the market volatile. Sterling was last trading at US$1.3264, up 0.07 per cent on the day.

“The predominant notion adopted by the market is that as long as the worst-case scenario of hard Brexit is avoided by delaying Brexit, the pound is a buy on dips,” Rabobank strategists said in a note.

The dollar index fell 0.12 per cent, with the euro up 0.11 per cent to US$1.1349.

“What we are seeing is the market positioning for potentially a more dovish tone tomorrow,” said Minh Trang, senior currency trader at California’s Silicon Valley Bank, speaking about expectations of what the Fed’s statement will be like today.

The Japanese yen was flat versus the greenback at 111.43 per dollar.

Among commodities, oil prices were little changed after hitting 2019 highs, maintaining recent strength on the back of expectations for producer club Opec to continue production cuts. US sanctions against producers Iran and Venezuela have also supported prices, although traders said the market may be capped by rising US output.

US crude fell 0.07 per cent to US$59.05 per barrel and Brent was last at US$67.67, up 0.19 per cent on the day.

“Opec and non-Opec producers are determined to get the supply and demand dynamics better into balance, recognising that US shale production is going to continue to rise,” said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

Precious metal palladium, used in things like car catalytic converters, dipped after it topped the US$1,600 an ounce mark for the first time on supply concerns.

Palladium last rose 0.76 per cent to US$1,595.50 an ounce. Prices have nearly doubled since their mid-August lows and have surged more than 25 per cent this year.

Spot gold added 0.2 per cent to US$1,306.31 an ounce. US gold futures gained 0.37 per cent to US$1,306.30 an ounce.

Copper rose 0.53 per cent to US$6,459.00 a tonne.

US Treasury yields zigzagged ahead of the Fed’s Wednesday statement. Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 4/32 in price to yield 2.614 per cent, from 2.601 per cent late on Monday.

The 30-year bond last fell 9/32 in price to yield 3.0238 per cent, from 3.01 per cent late on Monday. — Reuters