Global stocks meander as investors wait on US inflation numbers

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Equities updates

Wall Street stocks were little changed and European markets inched to new highs on Tuesday as investors looked ahead to the release of key US inflation data.

The S&P 500 index of blue-chip US stocks eked out a 0.1 per cent gain, while the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite fell 0.5 per cent. In Europe, the regional Stoxx 600 index gained 0.4 per cent, touching new all-time highs led by food-delivery services Deliveroo and HelloFresh, which have prospered during pandemic lockdowns.

The dollar edged up towards its July peak compared with a basket of currencies, while US government bonds fell back further following hawkish statements from Fed committee members on Monday. The yield on the benchmark US 10-year Treasury rose to its highest in three weeks on Tuesday, touching 1.34 per cent — a 0.20 percentage point rise since last week’s six-month lows.

“The market remains torn between strong economic data calling for an earlier than expected stimulus withdrawal and whether a resurgence in the Delta variant may pause the recovery,” noted Steen Jakobsen at Saxo Bank.

Inflation readings from the US on Wednesday will provide investors with further clues as to how soon the Federal Reserve may roll back its ultra-loose policies, which have supported global markets throughout the pandemic.

Economists polled by Bloomberg forecast consumer prices to have ticked up 0.5 per cent in July compared with the previous month, a slower pace than in June. On a year-on-year basis, the inflation rate is expected to have eased to 5.3 per cent, from 5.4 per cent in June.

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Strong job creation data in the US at the end of last week, coupled with a record 10m vacancies advertised in July, according to data released on Monday, have heightened speculation that rate cuts may come sooner than investors had previously thought.

“Analysing why labour force participation plunged in the pandemic, we conclude that unemployment will fall below pre-Covid levels by the end of 2022. We’re moving up our forecasts for Fed tapering” to December 2021, analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote. They also expect the Fed’s first rate increase to come in mid-2023.

In Asia, markets were mixed as the Delta coronavirus variant spread rapidly across the region. Covid-19 infection figures in China on Monday appeared to show the most serious resurgence of the disease in the world’s second-largest economy since mid-2020. Beijing has increased testing and travel restrictions in recent days.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1.3 per cent and the mainland China CSI 300 gained 1.2 per cent, led by technology shares recovering ground lost in recent weeks as investors were rattled by a government crackdown. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.5 per cent.

Oil recovered some ground after sliding more than 9 per cent over the previous six trading sessions, with the global marker Brent crude rising 2.7 per cent to $70.82 a barrel.

Worries that the spread of the virus could dent fuel demand in China were countered by optimism that the passage of the $1tn US infrastructure package will increase demand. West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, gained 3 per cent.

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