NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. stocks edged higher on Wednesday in a listless showing while the dollar made modest gains as investors stayed on the sidelines and waited for the outcome of a Federal Reserve meeting.
All eyes will be on a statement from the Fed policy meeting, due at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), with a news conference by Chairman Jerome Powell expected half an hour later.
Investors are waiting to hear about the Fed’s assessment of economic growth, inflation risks, and the impact on monetary policy, especially regarding when the Fed will start tightening policy by reducing its purchases of government bonds.
Any sign that the Fed may act sooner than expected could unnerve markets, since its current ultra-accomodative policy has flushed the market with cash and pushed stock prices to record highs. Some investors said concerns that the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant may scupper economic growth is another reason for the Fed to stand pat, for now.
“I’m not sure the Fed needs to change its course right now given the Delta variant is spiking around the country,” said Jack Ablin, founding partner and chief investment officer of Cresset Capital Management, which oversees $14 billion of investment funds.
“Any new data is just every excuse for the Fed to sit on its hands and take a wait-and-see attitude.”
By late Wednesday morning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.16%, and the S&P 500 was flat, gaining just 0.09%. The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite rebounded 0.8%, after sliding to its lowest in more than two months on Tuesday.
Global equities also took comfort from signs that a measure of calm had returned to China’s stock market overnight, which had been hammered this week by investor concerns of a widening regulatory crackdown. [.SS]
After two sessions of falls, the pan-European STOXX 600 index jumped 0.7%, while MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.20%.
Chinese blue chips closed up 0.2% overnight, and Hong Kong’s benchmark jumped 1.5%, but remained near nine-month lows.
With investors holding off on major bets before the Fed meeting, the dollar, which had a month-long rally after a hawkish shift from the Fed in June, pared earlier gains.
The dollar index edged up just 0.09%, and the euro was 0.07% at $1.1806. [USD/]
The Chinese yuan edged back from three-month lows. It had its worst day since October on Tuesday. The offshore Chinese yuan strengthened versus the greenback at 6.4988 per dollar.
In keeping with rangebound trading seen in currencies and stocks, Treasury yields rebounded slightly, after sinking on Tuesday when demand for risk languished. [US/]
The yield on 10-year Treasury notes was up 2.5 basis points to 1.259%, and the yield on 10-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities stood at -1.104%, off a record low of -1.147% struck on Tuesday.
Oil prices rose as industry data showed U.S. crude and product inventories fell more sharply than expected last week, outweighing expectations that surging COVID-19 cases would curb fuel demand.
U.S. crude rose 0.73% to $72.17 per barrel and Brent was at $74.74, up 0.35% on the day.
Gold held steady, with spot prices up 0.1% at $1,800.21 an ounce, near the psychological level of $1,800. [GOL/]
Cryptocurrency Bitcoin slipped back below $40,000, and was last up 0.6% at $39,703.
Reporting by Koh Gui Qing in New York, Tom Arnold in London and Alun John in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Sujata Rao; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa, Kim Coghill, Catherine Evans, Timothy Heritage and Barbara Lewis