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Markets

Global stocks soften on concerns of higher inflation

  • In New York, the Dow Jones index was 0.2 percent lower in early trading as well, and Asian markets closed with losses earlier in the day.
24 Feb 2021

LONDON: Global stocks were generally weaker Wednesday, with market chatter focused on uncertainty and the risk of a spike in inflation.

In afternoon deals, equities in both London and Paris slipped by 0.2 percent, while Frankfurt added 0.4 percent.

In New York, the Dow Jones index was 0.2 percent lower in early trading as well, and Asian markets closed with losses earlier in the day.

Oil prices climbed beyond the 13-month peaks seen the previous day, and bitcoin rose to over $49,000 after sliding the previous day on negative remarks from US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

"What we are seeing today is reflective of the mood in the markets for more than a week now," OANDA analyst Craig Erlam told AFP.

"It's been choppy for a number of sessions with investors still uneasy with the developments in the bond market and what it signals" regarding rising inflation.

"Powell did a good job of allaying some of those fears yesterday," Erlam remarked in reference to comments by US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell to US lawmakers.

Global stock indices have cruised to all-time or multi-year highs in recent months thanks to government and central bank backing, the rollout of vaccines, easing of lockdowns, an imminent US stimulus package and falling infection rates.

Yet the rally is showing signs of fatigue as traders fret that valuations may have run ahead of themselves, while the yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasury bonds -- a key red flag on inflation -- has spiked.

That has led to worries the Fed will have to lift borrowing costs more quickly than expected, removing a key pillar of support for stocks.

Powell sought to soothe those concerns Tuesday in the first of two congressional testimonies, saying inflation was expected to pick up and be "volatile" this year. while pointing out that the increases were unlikely to be substantial or long-lasting.

In Europe on Wednesday, London's stocks were capped by the strong pound, which has soared on Britain's lockdown easing plan, but weighs on the share prices of dollar-earning multinational companies.

Sterling briefly struck $1.4162 in Asian trade -- its highest level since April 2018 -- while the euro fell at one point to a one-year low at 85.41 pence.

Key figures around 1500 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 6,613.30 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 13,926.41

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 percent at 5,769.74

EURO STOXX 50: UP less than 0.1 percent at 3,691.23

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 31,472.49

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.6 percent at 29,671.70 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 3.0 percent at 29,718.24 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 2.0 percent at 3,564.08 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2132 from $1.2150 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4115 from $1.4113

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.95 pence from 86.09 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.02 yen from 105.25 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.4 percent at $66.25 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.3 percent at $62.48 per barrel