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Stocks gain, dollar sags as Fed chief shores up rate cut prospects

Published Jul 11, 2019 04:59AM ET
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By Karin Strohecker

LONDON (Reuters) - World stocks rose, global bond yields fell and the dollar weakened after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell bolstered expectations the Fed would cut U.S. interest rates soon.

The pan-European STOXX 600 climbed 0.2% after losing 1.4% over the past four sessions. Germany's DAX futures rose and Britain's FTSE futures gained 0.3%. The oil and gas sector as well as defensive stocks led the gains.

In his first day of testimony before Congress on Wednesday, Powell confirmed the U.S. economy was still under threat from disappointing factory activity, tame inflation and a simmering trade war, and said the Fed stood ready to "act as appropriate".

"Powell's statement confirmed we are going in the direction of a cutting cycle," said Charles Zerah, a fund manager at Carmignac. "The main question now is, are investors pricing too much in terms of rate cuts by year end? The way you see equity markets behaving, risk is that what markets are pricing could lead to disappointment."

The Europe gains follow healthy rises in Asia, where MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares ex-Japan rose 1%. Japan's Nikkei added 0.5%.

U.S. futures pointed to a stronger opening for Wall Street as well with E-Minis for the S&P500 at 0.2%.

U.S. stocks ended higher on Wednesday and the S&P 500 briefly crossed 3,000 points for the first time following Powell's remarks.

Some questioned how much momentum there was behind the latest rally.

"We are in the camp and have been all year, and arguably wrongly, that the Fed becoming more dovish and cutting rates is not good for risk assets," said Neil Dwane, global strategist and portfolio manager at Allianz Global Investors. Nine of 12 Fed rate cutting cycles had not stopped a recession, he noted.

"Given we are in the longest expansion and have only had rates lifted to 2.5%, for me it begs the question, is a soft landing possible?"

A strong June U.S. jobs report earlier this month heightened expectations the Fed was more likely to cut by 25 basis points than by 50. But Powell's cautious stance helped fuel bets on heftier easing at its next policy meeting on July 30-31.

The chance of a 50 bps cut rose to 27.6% from 3.3% on Tuesday, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool.

Minutes from the Fed's last meeting, in mid-June, however, showed some policymakers felt there was not yet a strong case for easing.

The rate cut prospects also weighed on the dollar. The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies slipped 0.2% to 96.929, extending losses for a second straight session after reaching a three-week peak on Tuesday.

The dollar was down 0.4% at 108.03 yen, forced off a six-week high of 108.990 the previous day. It was still some distance from a six-month trough of 106.780 set on June 25. The euro nudged up 0.23% to $1.1275.

In fixed-income markets, the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell to 2.037% after dropping on Wednesday from a three-week high of 2.113%.

Euro zone government bond yields also fell. Germany's 10-year government bond yield dropped to minus 0.32% on expectations that monetary easing in the euro zone will not be far behind the Fed.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures climbed to a six-week high as oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated before a storm, while an incident with a British tanker in the Middle East highlighted ongoing tensions in the region.

U.S. crude oil futures gained 42 cents to trade at $60.84 per barrel. Brent crude futures rose 47 cents to $67.48.

Spot gold gained to $1,426 an ounce, its highest since July 3, on the reinforced expectations for a Fed rate cut.

(Reporting Karin Strohecker; additional reporting by Sujata Rao and Marc Jones in London, Shinichi Saoshiro in Tokyo; editing by Larry King)

Stocks gain, dollar sags as Fed chief shores up rate cut prospects

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Abh Ph Jul 11, 2019 4:33AM ET
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