Shares fall, dollar rises as markets wait for dovish Fed hints

Stocks fell on Thursday and the dollar was up after two days of losses, as investors looked ahead to the US Federal Reserve Chair’s speech at the virtual Jackson Hole conference, at which he could signal tolerance for higher inflation.

Wall Street hit new record highs on Wednesday and the MSCI world share index also rose to its highest ever, with the endless supply of cheap cash from central banks pushing up big-cap tech companies.

But the rally petered out in the Asian session, with an element of caution coming from the United States sanctioning China over military action in the disputed South China Sea.

Market focus is squarely on the virtual Jackson Hole conference, where Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is expected to drop policy hints when he speaks at 0910 EDT (1310 GMT).

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was down 0.1% on the day at 1049 GMT, while the MSCI’s main European Index was down 0.3%.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 0.2%, while U.S. stock index futures dipped, with U.S.-China tensions dampening the mood.

CMC Markets UK analyst David Madden said the week’s pattern was a classic case of “buy the rumour, sell the fact” as investors unwound their bullish positions from earlier in the week.

“If you’re a trader starting the week on Monday you think Powell is speaking on Thursday, we’re all expecting him to have some sort of dovish stance, so you buy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, when he’s actually giving the talk on Thursday you wind down your positions,” he said.

“You trade in advance in the expectation that a dovish speech will be delivered and then you square up your position a few hours before hand,” he said.

The Fed has already cut interest rates to zero, started bond-buying and approved a massive lending programme.

Its balance sheet has expanded by as much as $3 trillion since the start of the pandemic – far more than that of the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan.

The dollar ticked up after two consecutive days of falling. Against a basket of currencies, it was up 0.1% at 92.955.

The riskier Aussie and Kiwi dollars gained versus the US dollar, while the euro was slightly lower at $1.18055.

Australia’s Victoria state — epicentre of the nation’s second wave of COVID-19 infections — reported its lowest one-day rise in new cases in nearly two months.

The offshore Chinese yuan hit a 7-month high versus the dollar overnight, but erased losses as the European session progressed.

European bond yields fell, with Germany’s benchmark 10-year Bund yield down 4 bps at -0.451%.

Oil prices were mixed, with Brent crude futures for October, which expire on Friday, up 0.1% at $45.61 a barrel by 1055 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 0.4% at $43.21 a barrel.

Hurricane Laura, a massive hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, has pushed the market higher this week, but the storm is not expected to affect supplies much because oil and product inventories are high.

Gold prices fell as investors took profits before Powell’s speech, with spot gold down 0.8% to $1,938.68 per ounce by 1056 GMT.

Also in focus is the Republican National Convention. US President Donald Trump will speak live from the White House on Thursday.

Source: SABC News (