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Global stocks take breather under all-time highs


Global stocks take breather under all-time highs By Reuters

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Published Mar 21, 2024 10:24PM ET
Updated Mar 22, 2024 12:07PM ET

© Reuters. Passersby walk in front of an electric screen displaying Japan’s Nikkei share average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan March 21, 2024. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Elizabeth Howcroft and Alden Bentley

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) -Profit taking weighed on global stocks on Friday after a week of record setting advances fueled by a series of dovish central bank moves, while the dollar struggled to extend a gain as U.S. yields ticked lower.

While the S&P 500 and Nasdaq opened a bit lower, and the Dow was basically flat, Wall Street’s key indexes looked set for weekly gains. The MSCI World Equity Index was down 2.30 points, or 0.29%, but up 1.7% on the week, on track for its biggest weekly gain this year.

A surprise rate cut from Switzerland’s central bank on Thursday helped push markets to new highs, as traders realized that major central banks around the world would not necessarily wait for U.S. Federal Reserve rate cuts before delivering their own.

Traders also drew confidence from the Bank of England being more dovish than expected, saying the economy is “moving in the right direction” for it to start cutting rates.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve left the fed funds rate alone at 5.25% to 5.50% but indicated it was still prepared to lower rates by 75 basis points this year despite a worrying uptick in U.S. inflation and economic growth solid enough to maybe even dodge a soft landing.

It said that recent high inflation readings had not changed the underlying story of slowly easing price pressures.

The S&P 500 on Friday morning lost 0.19%, standing at 5,231.45, the Dow was last down 0.42% at 39,615.37, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.17%, to 16,374.09. On the week so far they were up 2.2%, 2.5% and 2.3%, respectively.

Europe’s STOXX 600 fell 0.05%, after touching a new all-time high, while London’s FTSE 100 was up almost 0.7%, helped by expectations that the Bank Of England would cut rates sooner than previously thought. BoE Governor Andrew Bailey told the Financial Times that the expectation of more interest rate cuts this year on a whole was not “unreasonable”.

“I think there might be some profit-taking at the end of the week, just because of the amount of data that we’ve seen and the fact that we have seen more positive surprises,” said Baylee Wakefield, multi-asset fund manager at Aviva (LON:AV).

Trading may also reduce in the lead-up to the Easter weekend, Wakefield added.

“The dollar’s basically going to have its best week since January and that is because markets are now accepting that other major central banks will reduce their policy rate faster than the Fed, especially because we’ve had further evidence from the strong economic data we’ve had out of the U.S. this week,” Wakefield said.

The dollar index gained 0.33% at 104.33, on track for its best week since the first week of the year, with the euro down 0.42% at $1.0814. The probability of a European Central Bank rate cut before summer is increasing, Bundesbank President Joachim Nagel said.

The British pound weakened 0.43% at $1.26, having earlier hit a one-month low.

The yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year notes fell 5.9 basis points on Friday to 4.212%, while the 2-year note yield, which typically moves in step with interest rate expectations, fell 3.9 basis points to 4.5934%.

Euro zone government bond yields were set for a weekly decline. The benchmark German 10-year yield was down by about 11 basis points at 2.327%.

China’s yuan dropped sharply during Asian trading, hitting a four-month low, in a move analysts attributed to rising expectations that there will be more monetary easing to prop up the country’s economy.

The sudden move knocked the Shanghai Composite index, which fell 0.95%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 1.03%, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.18% to a record high close.

U.S. crude lost 0.21% to $80.9 a barrel and Brent fell to $85.64 per barrel, down 0.16% on the day. The possibility of a ceasefire in Gaza weighed on prices, along with the stronger dollar and lower U.S. gasoline demand.

Spot gold lost 0.37% to $2,172.80 an ounce, but was near a record bid high set on Thursday.

Investment flows into gold in the week to Wednesday reached their highest in almost a year, Bank of America Global Research said.

Global stocks take breather under all-time highs

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