Stocks, dollar power higher on ‘slow and steady’ rate hopes
Wall Street stocks reversed losses to end higher on Thursday, and U.S. government bond yields tempered gains, as investors digested strong economic data and signals of a measured interest rate approach from the Federal Reserve.
U.S. jobless claims numbers fell, while Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said that he favored “slow and steady” quarter-point U.S. rate increases to limit risk to the economy.
That helped Wall Street stocks rebound from an initial decline. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose around 1 percent , boosted by Salesforce Inc, whose shares jumped about 11.5 percent after the cloud-based software provider gave an upbeat full-year profit forecast and doubled its share repurchase program.
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite both gained around 0.75 percent , even as Tesla Inc fell nearly 6 percent after the company did not unveil a much-awaited small, affordable electric vehicle.
After initially sagging, European shares rose 0.5, even as euro zone inflation numbers justified what is widely expected to be another 50 basis-point hike in the European Central Bank’s already decade-high rates this month.
Consumer price inflation in the 20 countries sharing the euro currency barely eased to 8.5 percent in February from 8.6 percent in January on lower energy prices, above the 8.2 percent economists polled by Reuters had expected.
MSCI’s broadest index of world shares gained 0.37 percent .
Stock and bond markets in recent weeks have been driven by different factors, said Kevin Gardiner, global investment strategist at Rothschild & Co. The chief concern in stocks is the expectation of pressured corporate profits, while bonds are sensitive to inflation and rate expectations.
“The economic impact of tightening remains a puzzle. Profitability might not be that fragile, at least, not yet,” he said.
Overnight, both benchmark government bonds and shares had taken a blow, as inflation indicators from Germany and the United States reinforced expectations interest rates would go higher and stay there for longer.
Germany’s 2-year government bond yield rose to its highest since October 2008.
In the United States, manufacturing activity contracted for a fourth straight month in February, but a gauge of prices for raw materials increased last month, stoking concerns that inflation would remain stubborn.
“Economic data has surprised to the upside,” said Steven Oh, global head of credit and fixed income at PineBridge Investments. Any unexpected result in the data would drive policymakers to be more aggressive, and that has reset market expectations, he said.
U.S. government bond yields marched higher. Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields were near a four-month high at 4.066 percent , while two-year yields also advanced to 4.889 percent , around a fresh 16-year high.
Fed funds futures tied to the Fed’s policy rate see about an even chance that the rate will range from 5.5 percent -5.75 percent by September, from the current range of 4.5 percent -4.75 percent .
“We expect interest rates to stay higher for longer, and we expect stock market volatility ahead,” strategists at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute wrote on Thursday, adding that stronger-than-expected economic data this winter pushed their recession outlook into the second half of 2023.
Dollar rebound continues
In currency markets, the U.S. dollar index, measuring its value against a basket of major peers, gained nearly 0.5 percent to $104.968. The index is now up about 1.4 percent for the year, but still down from a September high around $114.
The euro lost 0.65 percent and the pound dropped 0.67 percent , with hotter-than-expected inflation numbers adding pressure on the ECB to raise rates.
In the crypto world, shares of Silvergate Capital plunged 57 percent after the cryptocurrency-focused bank said it was delaying its annual report and evaluating its ability to operate as a going concern. Bitcoin was last down about 0.5% at $23,461.
Oil prices ticked up, boosted by signs of a strong economic rebound in top crude importer China and easing worries of aggressive U.S. rate hikes. U.S. crude rose 0.32 percent to $77.94 per barrel and Brent was at $84.50, up 0.23 percent on the day.
Spot gold was slightly lower at $1,836 per ounce.
Fed to deliver two 25-basis-point hikes in Q1, followed by long pause: Reuters poll
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