Stocks buckle, dollar stirs as divided Fed disappoints

JAKARTA: A man pulls his cart filled with household items for sale in Jakarta yesterday. – AFP

LONDON: The dollar stirred and equities recoiled yesterday after a divided US Federal Reserve dented stimulus hopes, TikTok’s tug-of-war clobbered tech stocks and dire European car sales underscored coronavirus troubles. Traders were also watching Bank of Japan and Bank of England meetings as well as plenty more too, but the tone was set by the events overnight at the Fed and in the tech war.

The Fed extended its ‘dot plot’ forecast of unchanged US interest rates out to end-2023, but going no further than that, and upgrading growth forecasts so that GDP is now seen reaching pre-pandemic levels next year rather than in 2022. The downtrodden dollar rebounded across the board, given it its best daily rise in over a week against a basket of other top currencies and punting the euro back under $1.18. Bond markets seemed less enlivened with US Treasuries and German Bunds both quiet in early European trading though choppy equities markets were making up for it.

Tech stocks shed 1.6% after US President Donald Trump’s had warned China’s ByteDance should not keep control of the US operations of social media platform TikTok, a move that had also seen Chinese heavyweight Alibaba drop more than 4% overnight. Banks, automakers and miners were the biggest sectoral fallers though, all dropping as much as 2%. Volkswagen, Renault and PSA Group fell between 2.5% and 3% after industry data showed European car sales fell by 17.6% in August.

“Those who were expecting more input from Fed monetary policy after the adoption of an average-inflation target regime remained disappointed,” UniCredit analysts wrote in a note. “While the Fed expects the Fed funds rate to remain flat through 2023, it will need more time to assess the status of the economy and to change its remaining tools accordingly.” The stronger dollar inflicted some damage in emerging markets too. Turkey’s battered lira hit its latest record low , Argentina announced new capital controls and there was a third straight day of falls for eastern European currencies.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had lost 1% overnight after five straight days of gains while Japan’s Nikkei shed 0.6%. “In essence, high-tech shares were overbought and we’ve seen a correction since early this month,” said Soichiro Monji, chief strategist at Nishimura Securities in Kyoto. “I think that is still continuing, with the Fed just being a fresh trigger.” The Fed said it would keep interest rates near zero until inflation is on track to “moderately exceed” the central bank’s 2% inflation target “for some time.”

New economic projections released with the policy statement showed most policymakers see interest rates on hold through to at least 2023, with inflation not breaching 2% over that period. “Of course, sensible people wouldn’t really hold anyone to macro forecasts that far out so we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” said Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics at Scotiabank in Toronto. “Nevertheless, markets are priced for basically one outcome here and that is little inflation and no hikes for years to come.”

BOJ, jobs
The Australian dollar lost 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 was little moved at 104.98 to the dollar having hit a 1-1/2-month high of 104.80 per dollar overnight. 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. The Bank of Japan maintained its policy as widely expected. As the dollar gained, oil prices gave up some of their big gains made on Wednesday on a drawdown in US crude and gasoline inventories, with Hurricane Sally forcing a swath of US offshore production to shut. Brent crude dropped 1% to $41.80 per barrel while US crude fell 1.2% to $39.68 per barrel. Gold also slipped 0.8% to $1,943.8 per ounce.- Reuters

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