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Traders on tenterhooks ahead of Fed verdict; pound rebounds

NEW YORK: The dollar index was flat on Wednesday while the pound bounced back from a 'no-deal Brexit' slump, with oil up

July 31, 2019

NEW YORK: The dollar index was flat on Wednesday while the pound bounced back from a 'no-deal Brexit' slump, with oil up for a fifth day and stocks little changed ahead of a highly anticipated statement from the US central bank.

After having started under a cloud of Twitter threats, Sino-US trade talks concluded in Shanghai on Wednesday and the meeting was "constructive" according to both parties. Talks will continue in Washington in September.

With a rate cut in the cards ahead of the US Federal Reserve meeting, the focus is on whether the Fed will leave the door open for further easing. A statement is due at 1800 UTC.

On Wall Street, expectations for Fed easing have helped lift equities this month, with the S&P 500 just off a lifetime high hit on Friday. Futures markets fully priced a 25 basis points rate cut which would be the first cut in more than a decade. Futures priced a 1-in-5 chance of a 0.5% cut.

"The language about further rate cuts will not likely be very committal, so the markets might be a bit disappointed," said John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday reiterated his call for the Fed to make a large interest rate cut, saying he was disappointed in the US central bank and that it had put him at a disadvantage by not acting sooner.

A majority of market participants say that independence from the government is a key feature of central banks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 4.82 points, or 0.02 percent, to 27,193.2, the S&P 500 lost 0.9 points, or 0.03 percent, to 3,012.28 and the Nasdaq Composite added 11.53 points, or 0.14 percent, to 8,285.15.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.30 percent and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.07 percent.

Emerging market stocks lost 0.47 percent. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.64 percent lower, while Japan's Nikkei lost 0.86 percent.

In currencies, the pound bounced sharply versus the dollar and euro after four days of falls that took sterling to the lowest in more than two and a half years.

"We are just seeing some stabilization after very bad four days," said Lee Hardman, FX strategist at MUFG. "It doesn't change the bigger picture and the pound will continue to weaken but clearly it won't be a one-way street," Hardman added.

Sterling was last trading at $1.2242, up 0.77 percent on the day. It is on track for its weakest monthly performance against the dollar since October 2016.

The dollar index rose 0.01 percent, with the euro  down 0.16 percent to $1.1135.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.05 percent versus the greenback at 108.57 per dollar.

In commodities, crude oil futures rose for the fifth straight day, buoyed by a bigger-than-expected drop in US inventories.

US crude rose 0.24 percent to $58.19 per barrel and Brent was last at $64.92, up 0.45 percent on the day.

The yields on US government debt were weighed down by Fed cut expectations and fell further as the yields on German 10-year Bunds touched record lows.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 8/32 in price to yield 2.0352 percent, from 2.061 percent late on Tuesday.

Spot gold dropped 0.2 percent to $1,428.24 an ounce. Copper lost 0.31 percent to $5,929.50 a tonne.

Copyright Reuters, 2019