© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask is seen inside the Shanghai Stock Exchange building, as the country is hit by a novel coronavirus outbreak, at the Pudong financial district in Shanghai, China February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song
By Julien Ponthus and Alun John
LONDON (Reuters) – Global stock markets traded at fresh record-high levels on Wednesday while the dollar and U.S. Treasury yields ticked down as investors braced for the world’s largest economy to start cutting pandemic-era monetary stimulus.
The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to announce the tapering of its $120 billion-a-month asset purchase programme in its policy statement at 1800 GMT, a move widely seen as marking a new chapter in the world’s policy response to COVID-19.
European stock markets rose to a new all-time high at the open after Wall Street’s main indexes also scored new records on Tuesday.
U.S. futures were pointing to a flat open for the next session on Wall Street while MSCI’s all-country world index, which tracks equity performance in 50 nations, was up 0.02%, just a whisker from a new milestone.
The Tokyo bourse was closed for a public holiday while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.04%.
Boosted by fiscal and monetary stimulus, global stocks have thrived during the global economic rebound which has followed the recession triggered by the first wave of COVID-19 infections in 2020.
“From a pure macro perspective, negative real rates mean there is no alternative to stocks, while at same time the earnings cycle is very strong,” said Salman Ahmed global head of macro at Fidelity International.
Negative real rates is a very powerful force,” he added, as investors wonder whether equities are at risk of losing their edge against other asset classes with the direction of travel for interest rates firmly on the rise,
Markets are almost certain the Fed will taper but are looking to see if policymakers will give hints about the possibility of interest rate hikes next year.
Fed officials are trying to maintain a balance between raising rates to ensure inflation remains contained and giving the economy as much time as possible to restore the jobs lost since the pandemic.
The Bank of England could meanwhile become the first major central banks to raise borrowing costs after the coronavirus crisis when its policymakers meet on Thursday.
Moves in currency markets were limited on Wednesday with the U.S. dollar index losing 0.07% at 94.036 against a basket of major peers.
The Aussie dollar picked up 0.24% after having dropped 1.2% against the dollar a day earlier following more dovish remarks from the Reserve Bank of Australia, even as it abandoned its short-term yield target.
U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury yields were slightly lower at 1.5226%, off last month’s recent top of 1.7%.
Oil prices fell as industry data pointed to a big build in oil stocks in the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, and as pressure mounted on OPEC to increase supply. [O/R]
Brent crude fell 1.7% to $83.28 a barrel while U.S. crude tumbled 1.5% to $82.65 a barrel.
Spot gold slipped 0.25%. [GOL/]