London — Global shares eased on Tuesday as investors took profit on the gains from the past two weeks, after comments from two Federal Reserve officials injected a note of caution over the US rate outlook, knocking equities, commodities and other risk assets.
The MSCI all-world index eased 0.1%, but remained in sight of Monday’s three-week high, while the dollar — a gauge of investor risk appetite — held steady against a basket of major currencies.
In the past six weeks, even as cases have surged around the country, China has dismantled its zero-Covid-19 policy, which has given markets a bumpy ride as investors have weighed up the economic benefits of reopening against the effect on activity from the wave of infections.
Adding to that has been a sense of optimism that inflation has peaked, especially in the US, and, as such, the Fed will not have to raise rates as much as many had feared.
However, with consumer price pressures still well above the central bank’s target of 2%, two Fed officials on Monday issued a stark reminder that interest rates would have to keep rising, no matter what investors have priced in.
“The market is trying to get one step ahead of the Fed, but it’s not actually listening to what it’s saying. And the Fed is being quite clear with its message — that rates are going to push higher and they’re going to stay higher for longer,” CityIndex strategist Fiona Cincotta said.
“If we look at expectations of inflation later this week — the big focus — core inflation is still expected to remain high. It doesn’t matter which way you look at it. It’s still higher than the target the Fed is aiming for,” she said.
Consumer price data, which is due on Thursday, is expected to show headline inflation slowed to 6.5% in December from 7.1% in November.
The data could be key to setting expectations for what happens with rates at the Fed’s next policy meeting and beyond.
San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly told the Wall Street Journal she would pay close attention to Thursday’s data and both 25-basis point and 50-basis point hikes were options for her. Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic said his “base case” was for no rate cuts in 2023 or 2024.
“The main theme overnight was cautiousness in the equity space as stocks pared gains after hawkish comments from two Fed officials. Raphael Bostic and Mary Daly said the Fed would likely hike rates to above 5% and hold them there for some time,” Commerzbank said in a note.
Fed chair Jerome Powell addresses a conference on central bank independence later on Tuesday and investors are likely to scour his remarks for any signal on monetary policy.
In Europe, equities opened in the red, with the Stoxx 600, which on Monday hit its highest in eight months, down 0.7%. London’s FTSE 100 lost 0.3%, while Frankfurt’s Dax fell 0.5%.
US stock index futures eased 0.1%, indicating Wall Street could open a touch lower.
The dollar carved out gains against the Australian dollar , which is highly sensitive to the Chinese economy and has gained 3.5% in the last three weeks alone, based on the optimism around reopening.
The Aussie was last down 0.2% at $0.6903, while the offshore yuan lost 0.1% against the dollar to trade around 6.7906. It reached its strongest level since mid-August the previous day.
The dollar index eased 0.21%. The euro edged up 0.1%, while the pound fell 0.1%. The yen rose 0.1% against the dollar to ¥132.04, after data showed a faster pickup in Tokyo inflation that could prompt the Bank of Japan to tighten monetary policy more quickly.
Strategists at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, on Tuesday said they expected the Chinese economy to grow by 6% this year, which should cushion the global slowdown as recession hits developed-market economies. But any bounce may be fleeting.
“We don’t expect the level of economic activity in China to return to its pre-Covid-19 trend, even as domestic activity restarts. We see growth falling back once the restart runs its course,” Wei Li, who is global chief investment strategist for the BlackRock Investment Institute, wrote in a note.
Copper eased back from six-month highs, as bullishness from China’s emergence from Covid-19 was offset by concern about the risks of a broader global downturn.
London Metal Exchange copper futures were down 0.9% at $8,785 a tonne, having hit their highest in over six months on Monday, while aluminium and zinc fell between 1%-1.4%.
Oil was under pressure from concern that China resuming more normal activity may not translate into a boom in demand.
“The social vitality of major Chinese cities is rapidly recovering, and the restart of China’s demand is worth looking forward to. However, considering that the recovery of consumption is still at the expected stage, the oil price will most likely remain low and rangebound,” analysts from Haitong Futures said.
Brent crude futures were last down 0.6% at $79.16 a barrel. The oil price is about 2.3% below where it was a year ago and 45% below the highs around $139 after Russia invaded Ukraine last February.