World stocks pause, dollar creeps up ahead of payrolls
London: World shares took a breather and the dollar crept up on Friday, as investors turned their attention to monthly U.S. jobs data after welcoming the appointment of a centrist to the helm of the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve.
MSCI’s world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was on course for its first dip in seven sessions - barely noticeable after the latest wave of record highs.
European shares inched up in early deals tech stocks gained after Apple’s stock hit new heights. Carmakers offset drops elsewhere from the likes of French bank Societe Generale (SOGN.PA).
Earlier in Asia, a holiday in Japan kept volumes. Australia’s main index firmed 0.4 percent and China’s blue chips .CSI dropped half a percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS inched up 0.1 percent to be just under its highest since late 2007.
News that Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell would be the new head of the U.S. central bank was widely expected. It left focus almost squarely on the U.S. payrolls report, which is expected to show a big rebound from September’s hurricane-hit figures [nL2N1N80D3][nL2N1N81OL].
Powell has backed current Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s direction on monetary policy for the past five years, and, in recent years has shared her concerns that weak inflation justified a cautious approach to raising interest rates.
The dollar rose, with the index measuring it against a basket of peer currencies up 0.1 percent .DXY, though it was down for the week for the first time in three weeks, most because of its loss against the euro EUR=.
In Washington, House Republicans also finally disclosed their long-delayed plans for tax cuts that President Donald Trump has promised, setting off a frantic race in Congress to give him his first major legislative victory [nL2N1N80E2].
Passage of legislation that mainly favors corporations and the wealthy was far from certain, though, and some business groups quickly came out against it.
“The tax package will undergo several re-writes and given the contentious debate on day one the final version is likely to be delayed and will be smaller in scope,” said Richard Franulovich, an economist at Westpac. “The market reaction to the tax plan details has been equally lukewarm.”
The Australian dollar AUD=D3 was the big loser of the day in currencies, falling half a percent after disappointing retail sales data.
Sterling GBP=D3 also dropped to a one-month low against the dollar after plunging on Thursday in the wake of the Bank of England's first interest rate rise in a decade. It was heading for its third straight week of declines against the dollar.
Emerging markets largely took in stride the news that Venezuela plans to restructure its burgeoning foreign debt [nL2N1N905O].
There has been speculation of such a move for years. The cash-strapped OPEC nation’s collapsing economy has left its population struggling to find food and medicine.
In commodity markets, spot gold XAU= was steady at $1,276.81 an ounce, after touching its highest since Oct. 20 at$1,284.10 on Thursday.
London nickel prices renewed their advance, putting the metal on course for a gain of nearly 10 percent this week and 27 percent year-to-date on expectations of bullish demand from the electric vehicle battery sector. [MET/L]
Oil prices edged back up toward recent two-year peaks as OPEC-led output cuts tightened supplies and drained inventories.
Brent crude LCOc1 gained over half a percent to $61.05 per barrel. The benchmark hit $61.70 on Wednesday, its highest since July 2015. U.S. crude CLc1 gained 0.6 percent to $54.90, almost 30 percent above its June lows.