Stocks dip on caution before Fed, earnings

MILAN (Reuters) – Shares eased from record peaks on Tuesday as optimism about a global economic recovery was dented by caution before a policy decision by the Federal Reserve and earnings updates from a number of blue-chip companies.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask walks past the London Stock Exchange Group building in the City of London financial district, whilst British stocks tumble as investors fear that the coronavirus outbreak could stall the global economy, in London, Britain, March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, fell 0.1% by 1040 GMT, following a muted session in Asia and slight losses in Europe.

The world index has risen 9% so far this year, underpinned by expectations that rising COVID-19 vaccination rates will allow more economies to recover and give a big boost to company profits.

Earnings in Europe are expected to have risen 61% in the first quarter, while U.S. profits are seen up more than 31%, according to the latest Refinitiv IBES estimates.

Many investors however stayed on the sidelines ahead of the Fed meeting that ends on Wednesday, when the U.S. central bank is expected to confirm that it will maintain its easy monetary policy to bolster the economy.

One area of concern was India, which is struggling with surging coronavirus infections that have overwhelmed its healthcare system.

Markets were also awaiting for results from U.S. tech heavyweights Microsoft and Alphabet later on Tuesday. Companies that represent about 40% of the S&P 500’s market capitalization report from Tuesday through Thursday.

“There are yet to be any real punctures in the global risk balloon at the moment,” wrote Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid. “We’ll have to wait and see if these upcoming events might throw this off course.”

Some analysts say the recent rally has made stocks vulnerable to profit taking, given lofty valuations and high expectations going into the reporting season.

In pre-market trade, Tesla shares fell more than 2% even after the electric car maker beat Wall Street expectations for first-quarter revenue.

S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures both rose less than 0.1%. Earlier the MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ended little changed.

In Europe, bank results grabbed the attention. Strong earnings sent shares in Europe’s biggest bank by assets HSBC up 2.6%, while UBS fell after a surprise hit linked to the collapse of hedge fund Archegos.

For a graphic on World stocks PE:

COPPER SHINES

Copper prices hit a 10-year high, climbing closer to their record peak as supply worries in top producer Chile added to hopes for an improvement in global demand amid a stable economic recovery.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 1.5% at $9,901 a tonne at 1110 GMT, a gain of 27% this year.

Oil rebounded as optimism ahead of a meeting of producer group OPEC+ to discuss output policy offset concern that India’s coronavirus crisis could dent a recovery in fuel demand.

Brent crude was 0.6% up at $66.03 a barrel and U.S. oil gained 0.7% to $62.35.

The dollar hovered near multi-week lows versus major peers but moves were narrow as traders avoided taking out big positions before a bond auction and the Fed meeting.

After rising as much as 0.25% it pared gains to trade flat on the day at 90.899.

“Nobody really believes that the Fed will change its forward guidance, but just in case, investors appear to be loading up on U.S. dollar as a hedge,” said OANDA analyst Jeffrey Halley.

Bond traders were closely watching an auction of $62-billion of seven-year U.S. Treasuries later on Tuesday.

The Treasury saw very weak demand at a seven-year debt auction in February, which sparked a brutal global selloff. The notes also saw tepid, although improved, demand in March.

Ahead of the auction results, seven-year U.S. yields edged up to 1.2736%, while benchmark 10-year yields rose slightly to 1.5827%.

The yen fell 0.2% from a seven-week high against the dollar after the Bank of Japan kept policy on hold as widely expected and said it was ready to extend its pandemic relief programme.

Bitcoin rose 1.3% to $54,770. The world’s most popular cryptocurrency soared nearly 10% on Monday, after five straight days of losses, on reports that JPMorgan Chase is planning to offer a managed Bitcoin fund.

Bitcoin had slumped almost a fifth from an all-time high hit this month.

For a graphic on Copper prices:

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