Worries over economic recovery shake world stocks, Wall Street

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – World stocks edged away from the previous day’s record highs on Wednesday and Wall Street retreated on uncertainty over the pace of economic recovery, as investors’ move away from riskier assets lifted the dollar to one-week highs.

Traders work at the Frankfurt’s stock exchange, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Frankfurt, Germany, December 30, 2020. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/Files

Accommodative central bank policies and optimism about reopening economies have pushed equities to record levels but concerns are growing about the impact of rising coronavirus infections due to the Delta variant.

Markets are also still assessing data from last week which showed the U.S. economy created the fewest jobs in seven months in August, and wondering how the U.S. central bank will respond.

The Fed should move forward with a plan to taper its massive asset purchase programme despite the slowdown in job growth, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said in an interview with the Financial Times on Wednesday.

“Everything is tapering, tapering, tapering. We are looking at every single central bank – when is the next one?” said Eddie Cheng, head of international multi-asset portfolio management at Wells Fargo Asset Management, though he added: “The Delta variant impact is still running like a wild card”.

MSCI’s world equity index fell 0.55% by 10:36 a.m. EDT (1426 GMT) after seven consecutive days of gains

Wall Street shares were mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.76 % at 35,100 and the S&P 500 0.34% lower at 4,520.03. The Nasdaq Composite again bucked the trend, adding 0.07 percent to 15,374.33.

European stocks hit their lowest in nearly three weeks and were down 1%. Britain’s FTSE 100 struck two-week lows, down 0.69%.

“What is likely ahead of us is a continued but temporary deceleration of economic activity of one to three months which likely started in August,” said Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management.

Fed officials John Williams and Robert Kaplan speak later on Wednesday.

In Europe, markets are focused on whether the European Central Bank will this week begin to scale back its bond purchase programme.

The dollar hit a one-week high against the single currency and was trading at $1.1804. It also reached a one-week peak against an index of currencies, recovering from recent five-week lows.

Yields on 10-year Treasury notes fell to 1.3495%, retreating from this week’s eight-week highs. Germany’s 10-year Bund yield also hit eight-week highs before edging lower to -0.335%.

“Fears that central banks might start to taper their asset purchases seems to have knocked away a little confidence, particularly given tomorrow’s ECB decision where many expect we’ll begin to see the start of that process, not least with inflation there running at its highest levels in almost a decade,” Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.77%, stemming an eight-session string of gains.

Chinese blue chips dropped 0.41%, weighed down by recent soft data in the world’s second-biggest economy.

But Japan’s Nikkei jumped 0.89% and hit a five-month high, helped by revised gross domestic product growth figures beating expectations. [L4N2Q90R4]

Bitcoin continued its rout, down 2.23%.

Shares of Coinbase Global Inc dropped nearly 4% after the firm revealed it has received a legal notice from the top U.S. markets regulator.

U.S. crude oil jumped 1.45% to $69.35 a barrel and Brent crude rose 1.2% to $71.69 per barrel, with prices supported by a slow restart to production in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida hit the region. [O/R]

Gold gained 0.44% to $1794.1333 per ounce in line with the risk-averse mood and just below the psychologically key $1,800 level which it fell through in the previous session. [GOL/]

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