Markets meander as investors eye Jackson Hole

·3-min read
US stocks remain at or near records as they wait for signals on when the Federal Reserve will begin reducing stimulus

Investors hit the pause button on Wednesday as they awaited a key speech by US Fed chief Jerome Powell, with major stock indices little changed.

In Europe, London stocks advanced 0.3 percent and Paris added 0.2 percent. However, Frankfurt sagged 0.3 percent following a disappointing survey of business confidence.

Wall Street drifted higher, with both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite continuing their run in record territory.

Oil prices made further gains after jumping more than eight percent in the previous two days on hopes for a demand rebound.

"Traders are largely sitting on their hands today after bidding up prices of stocks, crude oil and other risk assets in the first two days of the week," said ThinkMarkets analyst Fawad Razaqzada.

"There hasn't been much in the way of fresh catalysts to provide direction, with all the attention being on Friday's speech by Jerome Powell."

Powell's upcoming speech to the virtual conference of economists at Jackson Hole will be examined for clues on the Fed's plans for monetary policy -- with an eye on the Delta Covid variant's impact on growth.

Asian markets were also mixed, with news that US President Joe Biden's multi-trillion-dollar spending plans were edging closer providing another colossal boost, but the optimism was offset by profit-taking after a strong start to the week.

"The lackluster disposition is not altogether surprising," said market analyst Patrick O'Hare at Briefing.com, as some believe profit-taking will resume while others that the rebound has nearly run its course.

"What can't be overlooked, however, is that there still isn't any concerted selling interest," he said.

"That's a testament to the underlying bullish bias that keeps shining through on interim bouts of weakness."

Global markets had jumped Monday on bargain-hunting after last week's retreat, with traders riding a wave of renewed optimism.

Stocks were battered last week by worries over the fast-spreading Delta variant, Afghanistan turmoil, China concerns, and expectations that the Fed will begin tapering financial support.

However, the US Food and Drug Administration's decision on Monday to give full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine has also given a huge lift to sentiment and eased Delta worries in the world's top economy.

That came as some countries including the United States see infection spikes easing, while China appears to have overcome a weeks-long outbreak. Still, others such as Australia, Japan, and New Zealand remain in a tough battle with the disease, forcing them into containment measures.

The FDA move "is paving the way for organisations to mandate vaccines for workers and thus lift vaccination rates higher", said National Australia Bank's Tapas Strickland.

An indication that the US economy is holding up came from July durable goods orders. The headline figure dipped 0.1 percent, but excluding volatile aircraft and transportation figures that can easily skew monthly totals, they rose by 0.7 percent.

- Key figures around 1530 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 35,450.14 points

EURO STOXX 50: UP less than 0.1 percent at 4,181.25

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,150.12 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 15,860.66 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 6,676.48 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 27,724.80 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.1 percent at 25,693.95 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.7 percent at 3,540.38 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1750 from $1.1756

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3720 from $1.3729

Euro/pound: UP at 85.64 pence from 85.63 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.08 yen from 109.65 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.2 percent at $67.68 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.8 percent at $71.63 per barrel

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