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Global stocks mostly fall amid angst at inflation risk

By Guardian Nigeria
18 February 2021   |   10:56 am
Global stock markets mostly fell Wednesday, with investors worried about high-flying share prices and the potential for inflation to spiral.

An electronic quotation board displays share prices with a level of 30,000 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on February 15, 2021. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)

Global stock markets mostly fell Wednesday, with investors worried about high-flying share prices and the potential for inflation to spiral.

On Wall Street, the Dow eked out another record, but both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq retreated, with analysts pointing to worries over higher Treasury bond yields.

European stocks finished lower, and losses were posted across most of Asia.

Oil prices rose, however, were holding near 13-month highs.

Lifted in recent months by OPEC production cuts, there prices got added support this week from a big freeze in Texas that has hammered output in the key US oil state.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin hit another record, pushing above $52,000 after breaking through $50,000 for the first time on Tuesday.

The dollar rose Wednesday against the euro and pound, but dipped against the yen.

Investors remain focused on Washington, where US President Joe Biden’s $1.9-trillion stimulus package is working its way through Congress. The prospect of the spending plan has been a key driver of a months-long surge in global equities.

Biden has taken to the road this week, pitching the package at a town hall event in Wisconsin on Tuesday night.

But analysts in recent days have fixated on higher US Treasury yields, a potential harbinger of inflation and higher borrowing costs amid soaring debt levels.

“The move up in yields has been driven by increasing inflationary concerns amid a rise in energy prices along with the prospect of a big US fiscal stimulus and the global recovery entering a more solid stage,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

Market analyst Chris Beauchamp at online trading platform IG agreed, saying, “The market rally has been built on the twin pillars of low interest rates and fiscal stimulus.”

US government data showed retail sales jumped 5.3 percent in January, much more than expected, helped by the last stimulus package enacted in December.

But the producer price index which measures wholesale inflation spiked 1.3, the largest since the index was revamped in December 2009, the Labor Department reported.

That could fuel concerns that inflation could make a comeback, especially with massive government spending expected, even though US central bankers have dismissed those concerns.

“It seems we will get some jump of inflation at some point but is it just a temporary jump or a big inflation problem?” asked LBBW’s Karl Haeling. “That’s the big discussion.”

– Key figures around 2230 GMT –
New York – Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 31,613.02 (close)

New York – S&P 500: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 3,931.33 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: DOWN 0.6 percent at 13,965.49 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent at 6,710.90 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 1.1 percent at 13,909.27 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.4 percent at 5,765.84 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,699.85 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 30,292.19 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.1 percent at 31,084.94 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2043 from $1.2106 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3858 from $1.3903

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.87 pence from 87.08 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.86 yen from 106.04 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.6 percent at $63.34 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.8 percent at $61.14 per barrel