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Markets

Stocks hover near highs as bond yields dip

  • 10-year US debt yield at lowest since May.
  • World stocks hover near record highs.
  • Biden stimulus efforts stymied by Senate ruling.
  • Inflation fears ebb, Fed taper talk in check.
Published June 9, 2021

NEW YORK/LONDON: World stocks hovered near record highs and US bond yields fell on Wednesday as some of US President Joe Biden's stimulus efforts appeared to be on the rocks, boosting the appeal of technology stocks as future inflation pressures ease.

A little noticed ruling by the Senate parliamentarian in late May said Democrats can only use "reconciliation" once in a fiscal year to circumvent legislation that requires 60 votes.

Democratic fiscal packages in Congress are rapidly shrinking, leading to a net outcome that inflationary pressures are set to recede, said Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management.

The yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasury notes fell 3.2 basis points to 1.4958%, down from 1.528% late on Tuesday.

Yields plunged as traders in part were forced to unwind short positions in Treasuries, said Joe LaVorgna, chief economist of the Americas at Natixis.

"More importantly, the economy is at its peak growth and a lot of what the (Biden) administration wants to do in terms of fiscal stimulus may not be met because of the parliamentarian ruling," LaVorgna said.

MSCI's all-country world index, a US-centric benchmark for global equity markets, rose 0.01% to 717.04, down a little more than 1 point from a record peak on Tuesday.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 traded less than 10 points from its all-time high as big tech rallied along with healthcare stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.11%, the S&P 500 gained 0.15% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.27%.

Attention remained focused on Thursday's release of US consumer price data and a European Central Bank meeting that could indicate how soon policymakers will begin to withdraw support for Europe's economy as the COVID-19 crisis ebbs.

The pan-regional STOXX Europe 600 index was 0.1% lower, with Britain's FTSE down 0.2% as UK-listed miners slipped under pressure from lower base metal prices.

Overnight in Asia, the MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.4% lower, as did Japan's Nikkei average.

Germany's 10-year Bund yield, which is closely correlated with US Treasuries, extended Tuesday's decline to -0.253%, the lowest since late April, as investors continued to price in a dovish outcome to the ECB policy meeting on Thursday.

"As the recovery in the (US) job market is contained, any discussion at the Fed on tapering is unlikely to gain momentum, even if it starts soon," said Naokazu Koshimizu, senior rates strategist at Nomura Securities.

US payrolls data last Friday showed hiring was slower than economists had expected, despite increasing signs of a labor market shortage.

Many analysts say more evidence of strong jobs growth is required for the Federal Reserve, which has repeatedly said a jump in inflation this quarter would be transient, to step up taper talk.

Thursday's US consumer price data is expected to show the overall annual inflation rate spiking to 4.7% and core inflation rising to 3.4%, a pick-up that concerns investors who don't entirely buy the Fed's transitory narrative.

The CPI data is unlikely to settle questions about the future path of inflation, said James Athey, investment director at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

"I therefore see potential for a higher print to push real yields and shorter-dated yields higher, thus flattening the curve and boosting the dollar," Athey said.

"This might not be a great environment for risky assets."

CURRENCIES STEADY

Inflation data from China showed its producer price index jumped 9.0% from a year earlier, the highest in over 12 years, on surging commodity prices.

The rise in consumer prices, however, was softer than expected, helping to mitigate concerns. While China's central bank is slowly scaling back pandemic-driven stimulus, top leaders have vowed to avoid any sharp policy turns and keep borrowing costs low.

The Chinese yuan, whose rally to a three-year high last week was propelled in part by speculation Beijing may want a stronger yuan to tame inflationary pressure, ticked up slightly to 6.3869 per dollar.

The dollar held at the lower end of recent gains, with the US dollar index down slightly at 90.031.

The euro nudged higher to $1.2194, while the dollar edged up to 109.58 yen.

Deutsche Bank's Currency Volatility Index hit its lowest level since February 2020 on Tuesday, and sank even further on Wednesday.

Oil prices continued to rally on signs of strong fuel demand in Western economies.

Brent crude futures rose $0.35 to $72.57 a barrel. US crude futures gained $0.26 to $70.31 a barrel.

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