LONDON,. Europe’s share markets struggled yesterday and the dollar and bond yields trimmed overnight gains made after the US Federal Reserve dampened bets that it might be readying its first interest rate cut in years.
Oil and metals markets added to the pressure on stocks as traders knocked copper to a 2-1/2 month low and used news of record US oil production to cash in some of Brent’s near 33 per cent rise this year.
Europe’s basic resource stocks led the downward shuffle in equities with as much as a 1.4 per cent drop to their lowest since late March. Tech took a similar hit although Wall Street futures were pointing to a fractionally positive.
There was the Fed’s signals too. For all the intense political pressure to ease policy and the mixed growth/inflation data, the US central bank held the line on Wednesday and refused to signal anything other than it was still on pause.
The dollar index stuck near 97.600 against its set of major currency peers after going as high as 97.728. It hovered around US$1.12 (RM4.63) to the euro and 111.50 yen having eased back from last week’s four-month high of 112.39 yen.
Although the Fed made the predicted 5 basis point cut to the interest it pays on banks’ excess reserves — a technical move to ease money market tightness as it runs down its balance sheet — chairman Jerome Powell was unwavering on the rate outlook and said the relapse in inflation rates was likely temporary.
“The market has gotten perhaps ahead of itself in quite confidently pricing in (U.S) interest rate cuts,” said Michael Metcalfe, head of global macro strategy at State Street Global Markets.
“Powell was quite dismissive of the latest downturn in inflation … which I think has caused the market to reassess a little bit.”
There was a little bit more movement from sterling as the Bank of England’s rate setters voted unanimously to keep rates on hold at 0.75 per cent but stuck to the view that higher borrowing costs would be needed in future, a more hawkish stance than either the US Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank.
The BoE also upgraded its forecast for growth in the world’s fifth-largest economy to 1.5 per cent, up from the decade-low 1.2 per cent it predicted in February, all of which kept sterling in a 30 tick range around US$1.3050.
“It seems like Carney, along with everyone else, is waiting for more clarity on when and if the UK is leaving the European Union,” said Nancy Curtin, Chief Investment Officer of Close Brothers Asset Management.
Core European government bond yields also had a mixed day, first tracking the overnight rise in US Treasuries after the Fed but eventually drifting back again.
Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index snapped a three-day streak of record high closes on Wednesday but were looking to respond with a positive start amid another flurry of earnings led by chip maker Qualcomm and sportswear firm Under Armour.
In what is one of the season’s busiest weeks, analysts now expect first-quarter earnings to rise 0.5 per cent compared with a 2 per cent fall estimated at the beginning of April, according to Refinitiv data.
Asia trading had been thinned by holidays in Japan and China but Hong Kong and Korea’s stocks gained after CNBC reported the US and China could announce a long-awaited trade deal by May 10, as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He heads to Washington.
Though now expected by markets if confirmed, it would remove significant uncertainty that has weighed on markets and global data for a year now.
“I would still expect some relief rally once the deal gets done. The question is how big that move might be,” State Street GM’s Metcalfe added.
Elsewhere Turkey’s lira remained just about clear of 6 per dollar mark after data there showed manufacturing activity contracting for the 13th month in a row. Euro zone factory activity also contracted for a third straight month.
“Demand shortages were again evident in the Turkish manufacturing sector in April, while currency weakness led to inflationary pressures building again,” said Andrew Harker, associate director of IHS Markit.
In commodities markets, the drop in oil prices came after US crude production output set a new record, though the losses were capped by the intensifying crisis in Venezuela and the stopping of Iranian oil sanction waivers by Washington.
US crude was last off 27 cents at US$63.32 a barrel while Brent slipped 33 cents to US$71.86. Copper was at a two month low after a heavy tumble on Wednesday, while spot gold was marginally weaker at US$1,271.55 an ounce. — Reuters