Markets mark time before Fed announcement

·3-min read
There are fears that a surge in inflation could cause central banks to lift interest rates, removing a key pillar of support to a year-long global rally

Stocks markets were mixed Wednesday as global traders cautiously awaited the outcome of the US Federal Reserve's policy meeting for any comment on the inflation outlook.

The dollar rose as the US central bank wraps up a two-day policy meeting.

Fed chair Jerome Powell may use his news conference later Wednesday to allay market worries about a possible surge in prices as the economy recovers.

"Equity markets in Europe have been quiet today as traders are content to sit on their hands ahead of the announcement," market analyst David Madden at CMC Markets UK.

Frankfurt ended the day with a gain of 0.3 percent, Paris was flat and London shed 0.6 percent.

"The mood on Wall Street is a little cautious as the US 10-year yield is above 1.68 percent, setting a fresh 13-month high," said Madden.

"The nudge higher in yields has encouraged traders to curtail their exposure to stocks, especially tech shares..." he added.

In midday trading, the tech heavy Nasdaq was down 1.2 percent while the S&P 500 shed 0.5 percent. But the blue-chip Dow added 0.2 percent.

US benchmark 10-year Treasury yields -- a guide to future interest rate expectations -- have risen in recent weeks as anxiety mounts about higher inflation further stirred by Washington's $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

That has caused stocks investors to shift out of tech stocks, hurting in particular the Nasdaq, while other stocks that would benefit from a wider economic recovery have seen gains.

Traders said there were also continuing concerns over AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine shot which many EU countries have suspended pending results of a probe into blood clot incidents.

In a newspaper article Wednesday, the UK's health minister said the jab was safe and there was no evidence of a health risk.

Oil prices meanwhile dropped by more than one percent after a surprise build in US stockpiles.

Oil markets and the world economy are recovering from the massive collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the International Energy Agency said in a report Wednesday.

- Key figures around 1700 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 32,882.43 points

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,849.74

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent at 6,762.67 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.3 percent at 14,596.61 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: FLAT at 6,054.82 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 29,914.33 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: FLAT at 29,034.12 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 3,445.55 (close)

Euro/dollar: FLAT at $1.1902

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3869 from $1.3889 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 85.82 pence from 85.66 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.24 yen from 109.00 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.3 percent at $67.50 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.1 percent at $64.07 per barrel