Stocks buckle, dollar slips as investors mull Fed action

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global equity markets and gold slumped, while the dollar eased on Thursday after the Federal Reserve reminded investors of the long slog ahead for a full recovery that was reinforced by data showing persistently high claims for U.S. unemployment benefits.

FILE PHOTO: A street sign is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York, February 10, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

U.S. Treasury yields dropped and the yield curve flattened as investors expressed disappointment that after its policy-setting meeting on Wednesday the Fed did not unveil more measures to stimulate the economy.

Wall Street’s main indexes tumbled as the technology sector and related stocks slid further, with Apple Inc and Inc among the biggest drags on the Nasdaq.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week and applications for the prior period were revised up, suggesting the labor market recovery had shifted into low gear amid fading fiscal stimulus.

The Fed is doing all it can without appearing to be in panic mode, said Rick Meckler, a partner at Cherry Lane Investments, a family investment office in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Investors face few alternatives other than stocks so some are taking profits ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November from this year’s unexpected gains after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“The Fed has been the most predictable part of the U.S. government. They did exactly what they told you they were going to do, they’ve been doing exactly what they said they were going to do for now well over a year,” Meckler said.

“If there’s more stimulation to come it’s going to have to come from Congress and the president, and on that front we seem probably stymied until the election.”

Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicated a long road to “maximum employment” but some investors were disappointed by the lack of further stimulus plans even as policy-makers pledged to keep interest rates near zero for a prolonged period.

MSCI’s global benchmark for equity markets fell 0.66% to 571.19, while its emerging markets index fell 1.04%.

In Europe, the broad FTSEurofirst 300 index dropped 0.40% to 1,440.42.

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On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.16%, the S&P 500 lost 0.51% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.98%.

Traders were also taking in Bank of Japan and Bank of England meetings and plenty of emerging market action, but the tone was set by the events overnight at the Fed and in the trenches of the tech war.

The dollar rebounded for its best daily gain in more than a week against a basket of other top currencies and the euro dipped back under $1.18.

The dollar index fell 0.097%, with the euro down 0.02% to $1.1812.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.30% versus the greenback at 104.62 per dollar.

In Europe, banks, automakers and miners were the biggest sector decliners. Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE, Renault and PSA Group fell between 2.5% and 3% after industry data showed European car sales fell by 17.6% in August.

The stronger dollar inflicted some damage in emerging markets too. Turkey’s battered lira hit its latest record low, Argentina announced new capital controls just weeks after its ninth debt restructuring, and there was a third straight day of falls for eastern European currencies.

Overnight in Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 1% after five straight days of gains while the Nikkei in Japan and KOPSI in South Korea shed 0.6%. and 1.2%, respectively.

(Graphic: Fed “dot plots” – )


News the Bank of England had done more work on a possible shift to negative interest rates dunked sterling back under $1.29 again after it lost 3.5% this month following a fresh bout of Brexit chaos.

The Australian dollar lost as much as 0.4% to $0.7278, having erased earlier gains made after stronger-than-expected local jobs data.

The Chinese yuan also dropped about 0.35% to 6.7686 per dollar, stepping back from a 16-month high hit on Wednesday.

The yen hit a 1-1/2-month high of 104.62 to the dollar after the Bank of Japan made no changes to its rates or stimulus.

With focus on new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is seen by some as a strong opponent of a higher yen, some traders said the market may be tempted to test his resolve on the currency.

“One interesting speculative trade in the near-term will be to long the yen ahead of the coming long weekend in Japan,” said a senior trading manager at a major Japanese bank.

BOJ chief Haruhiko Kuroda had said it would work closely with the Suga government to support the economy.

Brent crude futures rose $0.86, to $43.08 a barrel. U.S. crude futures gained $0.68, to $40.84 a barrel.

Spot gold prices fell 0.79% to $1,943.90 an ounce.

(Graphic: MSCI world stocks index sector weightings since 1994 MSCI world stocks index sector weightings since 1994 – )

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