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US stocks edged up to an all-time peak on Tuesday and commodities advanced, in contrast to losses incurred last week when nerves over the Delta variant of coronavirus roiled markets.
Wall Street’s S&P 500 ticked up 0.3 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.5 per cent. Commodity prices also pushed higher. The price of Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was up 3.4 per cent in afternoon trade at $71.09 a barrel, after surging more than 5 per cent in intraday trade on Monday following news that Covid-19 infections in China appeared to be falling. It is still below its price of $76.33 at the end of July.
The meeting of leading monetary policymakers in Jackson Hole on Thursday and Friday will be closely watched by investors. A lack of clear agreement within the Federal Reserve over the speed at which to pull back on its $120bn-a-month asset purchase programme will give the symposium extra importance, though there are few strategists who expect an announcement of a taper this week.
“My expectation is that Fed chair Powell won’t make any major announcements at this meeting,” said Kathy Jones, chief fixed-income strategist at Schwab Center for Financial Research. “The Fed has already indicated it is moving in the direction of tapering its asset purchases later this year — barring a slowdown due to the resurgence of Covid cases. While some caution is likely to show up in the tone of the speeches, the evidence suggests that tapering should start in the fall.”
The yield on US 10-year government debt rose 0.03 percentage points on Tuesday, to 1.28 per cent. Yields move inversely to price.
Across the Atlantic, it was a mixed session; the region-wide Stoxx 600 closed flat while France’s Cac 40 lost 0.3 per cent. Germany’s Dax rose 0.3 per cent, while London’s FTSE 100 ended the day 0.2 per cent higher.
Trading volumes were low across Europe, according to Bloomberg data, with activity well below average levels while many market participants are on holiday.
Asian stocks continued to rise. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed almost 2.5 per cent higher. The index is now down just 0.9 per cent in the month so far, having been 5.8 per cent lower just last week. The region-wide MSCI International Asia Pacific index rose 1.5 per cent on Tuesday. Chinese technology shares also jumped, led by a 14.9 per cent climb for ecommerce group JD.com.
Despite this, analysts have urged caution in the months ahead. “September will be defined by the bull run, but also by increasing volatility,” said Nigel Green of financial services company deVere Group.
He cited continued concerns of more Delta variant outbreaks, fears of further regulatory action by Beijing after the crackdown in China on the tech and education industries, and market instability if there is a belief that central bankers are moving too fast on ending monetary stimulus.