London — World stocks stalled below recent seven-week highs on Wednesday, while the dollar was steady as investors awaited the results of the closely watched US midterm elections. Bitcoin, the biggest cryptocurrency by market value, was again under pressure and fell more than 3%, a day after sliding 11%.
European stock markets were lower, US equity futures were mixed and Asian shares edged up as the US midterm election results rolled in. This all left MSCI’s World Stock index stuck just below Tuesday’s seven-week peak.
Control of the US Congress was up for grabs after the elections, with many of the most competitive races uncalled, leaving it unclear whether Republicans would crack the Democrats’ tenuous hold on power.
“It does look like it’s a bit tighter than expected. The expectation is still for the Republicans to flip the House of Representatives,” said Fiona Cincotta, senior markets analyst at City Index in London.
“US stock futures are pushing higher on the idea of political gridlock being favourable for stocks, as it has been historically.”
Stock markets have tended to perform better under a split government when a Democrat is in the White House, with investors attributing some of that performance to political gridlock that prevents either side from making major policy changes.
Average annual S&P 500 returns have been 14% in a split Congress and 13% in a Republican-held Congress under a Democratic president, according to data since 1932 analysed by RBC Capital Markets. That compares with 10% when Democrats controlled the presidency and Congress.
Stuart Cole, head macro economist at Equiti Capital said potential political gridlock in Washington probably meant the end of tax rises on corporations and the well-off proposed by President Joe Biden.
“But looming larger now is the prospect of another battle over raising the US debt ceiling and the prospect for government shutdowns while the Democrats and Republicans argue over it,” he said.
In Asia, Japan’s blue-chip Nikkei stock index retreated from a two-month high as poor results from video game maker Nintendo weighed. Chinese shares slipped as data showed China’s producer prices fell for the first time since December 2020, underscoring faltering domestic demand amid Covid-19 curbs.
Focus remained on crypto currencies a day after crypto giant Binance signed a nonbinding agreement to buy FTX’s non-US unit to help cover a “liquidity crunch” at the rival exchange, in a stunning bailout that raised fresh concern among investors about cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin was last down more than 3% at $17,917, while FTX’s native token slid a further 27%.
With attention on the US midterm election and Thursday’s key inflation numbers, trading more broadly in currency markets was generally subdued.
The dollar was down about a fifth of a percent at ¥145.45, while the euro was just a touch softer at $1.0064 .
Economists expect Thursday’s inflation data to show a decline in yearly core numbers to 6.5% in October from 6.6% a month earlier. US money markets have priced in a 50 basis-point Fed interest-rate hike in December and a roughly 33% chance of a bigger, 75bps increase.
Oil prices edged lower as industry data showed US crude stockpiles rose more than expected and on worries a rebound in Covid-19 cases in top importer China would hurt fuel demand. US crude fell about 0.7% to $88.22 per barrel and Brent was at $94.78, down 0.6% on the day.