London: Bond market jitters spilt over into stocks on Friday, pulling European indexes lower for a third straight session, and the dollar was poised for a weekly loss as “Trumpflation” trades lost momentum.
World stocks have hit record highs, emerging markets have regained favour and the dollar has climbed to a 14-year peak in recent weeks on expectations US President Donald Trump’s economic agenda will stoke growth and inflation.
New US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took the edge off those expectations in his first televised interviews since he took office last week, when he said any policy steps by the Trump administration would probably have only a limited impact this year.
That knocked the dollar back, leaving it to trade down on the week and facing its first weekly loss in three. It was last down 0.2 per cent against a basket of other major currencies at 100.82.
“Mnuchin’s comments were less belligerently reflationary than they could have been, in a dollar strength context, and that probably did much of the damage [to Gorabet the dollar],” said UBS Wealth Management currency strategist Geoffrey Yu, in London.
Subdued forecasts from European blue chips, including BASF and Vivendi, and a drop in mining shares following overnight declines in metals prices dragged the benchmark STOXX 600 index down 1 per cent.
Shares of Standard Chartered and Royal Bank of Scotland fell about 3 per cent after results, putting pressure on the regional banking index.
Political concerns around elections in Europe have so far largely affected bond markets. The extra return investors demand to hold French rather than German debt, for example, hit multi-year highs earlier this month on concern far-right Marine Le Pen was gaining ground in the country’s presidential campaign.
Bond market weakness
French stocks had remained largely unscathed, rising to levels last seen in December 2015. But the CAC 40 share index fell 1.5 per cent on Friday, on track for its worst day in nearly five months, a sign that stock investors are catching up to bond market weakness.
French equities are “too relaxed”, UBS warned on Friday noting that the gap between the CAC40 and government bond spread was its widest since 2012, suggesting equity investors were turning a blind eye to the sell-off in bonds.
In commodity markets, London copper prices recovered as doubt about Chinese demand returned. Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange was up 0.8 per cent at $5,907 a tonne after falling 3 per cent the day before.
Gold hit its highest in more than three months on a weaker dollar and safe-haven demand. Spot gold was up 0.4 per cent at $1,254.10 (Dh4,602.55) per ounce.
Oil prices fell after US crude inventories rose for a seventh week. Benchmark Brent crude oil was down 43 cents at $56.06 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate traded at $54.01 a barrel, down 44 cents.
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