The dollar and U. S. Treasury yields jumped on Wednesday, while stocks were mixed, as investors focused less on U.S. President Donald Trump’s first speech to Congress and more on what they see as a growing chance of a U.S. interest rate hike this month.
Trump took a measured tone in his keenly awaited speech on Tuesday, saying he was open to immigration reform, but failing again to provide much detail on his plans for tax reform and infrastructure spending.
For markets, the speech was overshadowed by comments from a handful of Federal Reserve policymakers, who suggested rate-setters are worried about waiting too long to raise interest rates in the face of pending economic stimulus from Washington.
New York Fed President William Dudley — one of the most influential U.S. central bankers, and usually considered a dove — said the case for tightening monetary policy had become “a lot more compelling”, while San Francisco Fed President John Williams said he saw “no need to delay” raising rates.
Having priced in only around a 30 percent chance that the Fed would move this month before the Fed comments, investors moved to price in around a 68 percent probability of a March hike, according to Reuters data. By June, an 84 percent chance of at least one hike has now been priced in.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of other major currencies, climbed as much as 0.7 percent to its highest levels in seven weeks, having also been helped by data showing robust U.S. consumer spending.
Two-year U.S. Treasury yields jumped to 1.304 percent, the highest since December, to match their highest levels since 2009. The gap between them and their German equivalents increased to its widest since 2000.
“After dominating the markets since November, President Trump could now fade into the background as the focus shifts to the Fed and the prospect of rate increases,” said Kathleen Brooks, Research Director at City Index in London.
“Fed members don’t just let words slip out when they speak to the press – this was a message for the markets, and the markets have duly reacted.”
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European shares gained, with basic resources the top-performers on Trump’s promise of $1 trillion of infrastructure spending.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1 percent, with Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 outperforming peers to climb 1.3 percent and 1.4 percent respectively, helped by strong company earnings reports.
The global MSCI ACWI index, which has risen more than 10 percent since Trump’s election in November, was flat, with gains in Europe offsetting earlier falls on Asian and U.S. bourses. The MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.2 percent.
Trump pledged to overhaul the immigration system, improve jobs and wages for Americans and deliver “massive” tax relief to the middle class and tax cuts for companies, but offered few clues on how they would be achieved.
“The market has been looking for reassurance that Trump intends to follow through on his campaign promises for fiscal spending, tax cuts and deregulation,” said James Woods, global investment analyst at Rivkin in Sydney.
“He mentioned these policies but did not provide any actual details or time lines, which is what investors are looking for.”
U.S. stock futures still pointed to a higher open after Trump’s address. E-mini S&P futures rose 0.5 percent, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average snapped a 12-day winning streak to close down 0.1 percent in the prior session.
A raft of surveys pointing to stronger factory activity in China, Japan and other parts of Asia were largely overshadowed by Trump’s speech. [L3N1GE2BU]
In commodity markets, crude oil prices lost more ground, with rising U.S. oil output adding pressure on the market, although OPEC production cuts continued to offer support. [O/R]
The stronger dollar weighed on gold, which dropped 0.3 percent to 1,244.36 an ounce, extending Tuesday’s decline.
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