World markets trade in narrow band as investors monitor inflation

·3-min read
Investor fears about inflation have played off against optimism over the global recovery outlook in recent months

World stock markets traded in a narrow band Wednesday, tracking inflation concerns, as traders weighed economic growth and price growth prospects as countries come out of lockdown.

Wall Street equities spent most of the day in positive territory, but both the Dow and S&P 500 ended only slightly higher. The gains in the tech-rich Nasdaq were somewhat more impressive at 0.6 percent.

Asia's main stock markets also closed with modest gains and European markets likewise struggled to stay out of the red with London and Paris flat and Frankfurt slightly down.

After rallying for more than a year, equities have recently been jolted by fears that a forecast surge in economic activity -- fueled by reopenings, stimulus and vaccinations -- will send prices soaring and force central banks to wind back their ultra-loose monetary policies sooner than flagged.

A succession of US Federal Reserve officials have insisted that while the rebound will likely fan inflation, it will not last long and the central bank will not step back from its supportive measures -- including record low interest rates -- for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday, Fed Vice Chair Randal Quarles said the current spike in inflation is unlikely to pose a persistent threat to the US economy, and that prematurely heeding calls to act could derail the recovery from the Covid-19 downturn.

But this week's choppiness in stocks shows that "investors continue to weigh optimism on global economic recoveries against lingering concerns regarding rising inflation pressures," said a note from Charles Schwab.

The yield of long-term US Treasuries, a key gauge of future interest rates, has stabilized after their recent sharp increase set off alarm bells.

Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst with ThinkMarkets, judged sentiment "positive as the Fed and other central banks continue to keep their asset buying programs running at record pace just as some of the major global economies are emerging impressively from the impact of the pandemic."

Among individual companies, Amazon edged up 0.2 percent after announcing it would acquire the storied MGM studios for $8.45 billion, giving the US tech giant a vast library to further its ambitions in streaming.

Ford jumped 8.5 percent as it said it is ramping up investment in zero-emission cars and by 2030 expects 40 percent of its sales volume to be comprised of fully electric vehicles.

Amazon was up 0.2 percent after extending its push into entertainment by agreeing to buy the storied MGM studios for $8.45 billion.

The deal gives the US tech giant a vast library to further its ambitions in streaming, bolstering Amazon Prime Video, which competes with Netflix and others in a fast-evolving market.

ExxonMobil climbed 1.2 percent after shareholders voted to install at least two board nominees from activist group Engine No. 1, which favors more forceful action on climate change.

- Key figures around 2030 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP less than 0.1 percent at 34,323.05 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.2 percent at 4,195.99 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.6 percent at 13,738.00 (close)

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,026.93 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: FLAT at 6,391.60 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.1 percent at 15,450.72 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,031.67 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 28,642.19 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.9 percent at 29,166.01 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,593.36 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2200 from $1.2250 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4124 from $1.4153

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.35 pence from 86.56 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.13 from 108.78 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.3 percent at $68.87 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.2 percent at $66.21 per barrel

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