Stocks subdued as investors waver over U.S. inflation signals


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LONDON/SYDNEY — Global shares edged up on Thursday, while the U.S. dollar steadied below an 11-week high as investors reassessed U.S. Federal Reserve statements on inflation and looked to upcoming data for direction.

In Europe, the STOXX 600 opened 0.5% higher ahead of the release of Germany’s closely-watched Ifo business sentiment survey, expected to show a rise from two-year highs.

Britain’s FTSE 100 shares made smaller gains as investors awaited a Bank of England meeting for the latest clues about how soon stimulus could be withdrawn as the economy bounces back from the COVID-19 shock.

The MSCI world equity index was 0.1% higher, edging towards record highs hit earlier in June.

Wall Street futures pointed to a stronger open a day after the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed at a record high. S&P 500 e-minis and Nasdaq futures were both 0.3% firmer.

In Asia too markets made small gains. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.1% higher, recovering from a one-month trough touched earlier this week, while Japan’s Nikkei was unchanged.

Stock markets have whipsawed over the last week, feeling the after-effects of a surprise projection for rate increases as soon as 2023 by the U.S. Federal Reserve which knocked stocks, boosted the dollar and led to the flattening of the U.S. bond yield curve.

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Investors are now pricing the first full U.S. interest rate rise for February 2023 compared to December 2022 in the immediate aftermath of the Fed meeting.

Overnight, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields hovered around 1.5% in muted trading, while government bond yields in the euro area drifted higher.

“Until bond yields break out in a sustainable fashion, in either direction, it remains very hard to determine which direction stocks are headed in over the near term,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note.

“Much continues to hinge on the upcoming growth data.”

Europe released strong manufacturing activity data on Wednesday, while figures on ISM manufacturing and U.S. non-farm payrolls are due next week.

The U.S. dollar vacillated below an 11-week high versus major peers as traders navigated conflicting signals from Fed officials on the timing of a withdrawal of monetary stimulus.

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On Wednesday, two Fed officials said a period of high inflation in the United States could last longer than anticipated, just a day after Fed Chair Jerome Powell played down rising price pressures.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six rivals, was treading water at 91.734. It was at 92.408 at the end of last week, the highest since April 9.

Against the Japanese yen, the dollar climbed to a 15-month high of 111.11. It was last slightly weaker at 110.84.

The Bank of England is expected to acknowledge the strength of inflationary pressures in recent data when it meets later in the day. A policy announcement is expected at 1100 GMT.

“We do not expect the statement to push back against expectations that interest rates could start to move higher in the second half of next year,” ANZ economists said.

The British pound shed 0.1% against the dollar to $1.3958.

Oil prices gained for a second day after a larger-than-anticipated drawdown in U.S. crude and gasoline stocks reaffirmed the outlook for robust fuel demand.

Brent crude futures rose 0.4% to $75.50 a barrel and U.S. crude jumped 0.5% to $73.45 per barrel.

Spot gold prices slipped 0.1% to $1,776.3 an ounce.

(Reporting by Tom Arnold and Swati Pandey; editing by Richard Pullin and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.

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