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Stocks dip, futures rise as traders mull inflation: markets wrap

Crude oil headed lower, while gold ticked up.
Image: Bloomberg

US equity futures climbed and stocks in Asia dropped Monday as investors assessed inflation risks amid improving economic activity. The dollar held onto gains.

Hong Kong led losses amid low volumes with Japan and China, as well as the UK, among markets closed for holidays. US and European futures edged higher after the S&P 500 dropped from a record Friday, amid data pointing to price pressures and talk of a possible pullback in central bank support. Still, the US gauge capped its biggest monthly rally since November.

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Australia’s 10-year government bond yield inched up, after the Treasury benchmark held above 1.6%. The yen dropped. Crude oil headed lower, while gold ticked up.

Inflation remains a key concern for investors. The latest US data show fiscal stimulus helped drive the strongest monthly gains in personal incomes in records going back to 1946, and the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge of prices rose by the most since 2018. Though last year’s pandemic shock has skewed some data, such readings fuel speculation that central banks may start to withdraw support by trimming asset purchases.

“Interest rates going forward will be led more by expectations on the tapering from the Fed rather than by inflation,” Raffaele Bertoni, head of debt capital markets at Gulf Investment Corp., said on Bloomberg Television.

In his latest annual meeting, billionaire Warren Buffett warned of rising price pressures and a “buying frenzy” spurred by low interest rates. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan, who’s not currently a voter on the rate-setting committee, said signs of excessive risk-taking suggest it’s time to consider fewer bond purchases. His remarks contrast with those of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

Top US financial officials are downplaying inflation risks. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on the weekend that the demand boost from President Joe Biden’s economic plan would be spread over a decade.

In Asia, manufacturing activity remained robust through April, with gauges of activity in Taiwan and South Korea signaling ongoing expansion. Data on Saturday showed South Korean exports last month rose the most in 10 years, reflecting a recovery from the effects of the pandemic.

Elsewhere, India’s virus crisis is worsening, with daily deaths hitting another record on Sunday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under fire for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis and his party lost a key state election.

Here are some key events to watch this week:

  • Fed Chair Powell speaks in an event hosted by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
  • The Reserve Bank of Australia monetary policy decision is due Tuesday.
  • The Treasury announces its quarterly refunding on Wednesday.
  • Chicago Fed President Charles Evans gives a virtual speech on the US economy at an event hosted by Bard College; Cleveland Fed’s Loretta Mester speaks to the Boston Economic Club on Wednesday.
  • Bank of England rate decision Thursday.
  • US April employment report is released on Friday.

These are some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • S&P 500 futures rose 0.2% as of 1:32 p.m. in Hong Kong. The S&P 500 fell 0.7% Friday.
  • Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index was little changed.
  • South Korea’s Kospi index fell 0.6%.
  • Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.6%.
  • Markets are also closed in Thailand and Vietnam Monday.
  • Euro Stoxx 50 futures rose 0.1%.

Currencies

  • The yen was at 109.65 per dollar, down 0.3%.
  • The offshore yuan was at 6.4784 per dollar.
  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index edged up 0.1% after climbing 0.7% Friday.
  • The euro traded at $1.2017.

Bonds

  • Treasury futures were flat after the 10-year yield held around 1.63% Friday. The cash market is closed in Asia Monday.
  • Australia’s 10-year bond yield was little changed at 1.76%.

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.6% to $63.23 a barrel.
  • Gold was at $1,773.38 an ounce, up 0.2%.
© 2021 Bloomberg

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