Stocks hold firm as dollar dithers ahead of US data
Global stocks steadied on Tuesday, underpinned by the conviction among investors that the Federal Reserve will not raise rates again, which kept the dollar at three-month lows and supported gold above $2,000 an ounce.
Traders will have to weigh up data this week on how the U.S. economy fared in the third quarter, along with a key read of consumer inflation and spending – both of which could be instrumental in setting expectations for the timing of the first rate cut.
The MSCI All-World index was last unchanged on the day, still heading for its best month in three years, up 8.5% in November. The dollar, which has lost 3.2% in value against a basket of currencies this month, was also flat, around its lowest in three months.
European stocks fell 0.6%, driven by losses in pharma and consumer goods companies, while U.S. stock futures fell 0.1%.
The spotlight this week will be on Thursday’s U.S. October personal consumption expenditures report (PCE), which includes core PCE, said to be the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, and euro zone consumer inflation figures – giving further clarity on where prices and monetary policy are headed.
U.S. consumer inflation, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), is running at a rate of 3.2%, having dropped from September’s 3.7%, and core PCE, at 3.7% in September, is unlikely to buck that trend. What might give traders more pause for thought is the spending component of the PCE report, according to Lombard Odier economist Sami Chaar.
“That is important because, basically, the market is totally anchored in that ‘soft landing’ type scenario, where disinflation continues, with slow growth, allowing the Fed to cut four times next year starting March. That is a very complacent scenario,” he said.
“Everything has to go great and in the Fed’s direction for this scenario to actually materialise and play out. So the spending data is where we get some new information,” he said.
The resilience of the U.S. consumer, thanks in part to a strong labour market, has helped the United States outperform most other developed economies in the past year.
Futures markets show traders expect U.S. rates to stay where they are at 5.25-5.50%, with a small chance of a first cut by March and at least three subsequent cuts that would take rates closer to 4.25-4.5% by the end of 2024.
Gold traders will also keep a close eye on the U.S. inflation numbers. The price is at six-month highs above $2,000, driven by a weaker dollar and lower Treasury yields.
Policymakers at a number of central banks have reiterated their commitment to keeping interest rates high enough to bring down inflation towards their targets.
Euro zone inflation data this week will keep that debate alive in European markets.
NO LET-UP IN INFLATION FIGHT
On Monday, ECB President Christine Lagarde said the central bank’s fight to contain price growth was not over, citing persistently strong wage growth and an uncertain outlook even as inflation pressures in euro zone ease.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell also speaks on Friday and traders will be watching to gauge where rates may head.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields, which have dropped by the most in a month since March in November, were up 2 basis points at 4.41%, surrendering some price gains after data on Monday showed new home sales fell more than expected in October as higher mortgage rates reduced affordability.
Shorter-dated yields were a touch higher, following auctions on Monday for over $100 billion in new supply of two- and five-year notes.
In currencies, the Japanese yen, which often tracks U.S. yields, strengthened, leaving the dollar 0.1% down at 148.44, while the euro was flat at $1.0956.
With the dollar trading a touch softer on the day, the oil price rose, with up 1.1% at $80.83 a barrel, while futures rose 1.1% to $75.68.
Volatility in the oil market has been stirred up this week by Thursday’s meeting of the OPEC+ group of major exporters to discuss production targets.
“The Saudis and OPEC+ have made a habit of surprising markets in recent years when it comes to their meetings. However, with aggressive cuts already in place, it does leave one wondering the degree to which the group could surprise the market with deeper-than-expected cuts,” ING strategist Warren Patterson said.
Meanwhile, gold was up 0.1% at $2,014 an ounce.