European stocks declined while Treasuries edged higher and the dollar weakened ahead of American inflation data and testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that will help shape US interest-rate expectations.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped for a second day, while Asian shares rose with Japan’s Topix measure closing at the brink of a bull market. Australian and New Zealand government bonds extended the last session’s recovery from a post-US election debt rout as benchmark Treasuries advanced. The euro strengthened for the first time in nine days as Bloomberg’s dollar index was unchanged near a nine-month high. Crude fell following an increase in American stockpiles and as OPEC talks to agree on output cuts showed signs of strain.
Yellen will be addressing Congress for the first time since Donald Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 presidential election, an unexpected win that spurred speculation his plans for fiscal stimulus will quicken the pace of Fed interest-rate hikes. A December rate increase has become a foregone conclusion in the futures market, while prospects for further tightening triggered a global bonds rout and boosted the dollar since the start of last week.
“We are seeing the usual cautiousness appear as many investors awaited Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s Congressional testimony,” said Tony Farnham, a Sydney-based strategist at Patersons Securities Ltd. “The economic data released on the day were, as a group, on the soft side” in the US.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.2% by 8:16 a.m. in London. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was up 0.3%, extending Wednesday’s 0.4% gain. Japan’s Topix index rose 0.1% to close at a nine-month high, and the Shanghai Composite Index edged up 0.1%.
Futures on the S&P 500 Index were flat after the underlying gauge fell 0.2% in the last session and the Dow Jones Industrial Average retreated from a record high. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is among companies reporting earnings on Thursday.
The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, which tracks the greenback against 10 major peers, was down 0.2%. The yen rose 0.1% to 108.95 per dollar, but is still down more than 3% since Trump’s victory. The euro strengthened 0.3% against the dollar, snapping an eight-day losing streak.
Malaysia’s ringgit fell for a seventh day, its longest stretch of losses in more than a year. Bank Negara Malaysia said Wednesday it will continue to restrict speculative activity in the currency market.
“I’m just seeing this as overall dollar strength,” said Wu Mingze, a foreign-exchange trader in Singapore at INTL FCStone Inc., a Nasdaq-listed global payments-service provider. “Unfortunately speculators will treat Bank Negara’s statements as a sign of weakness if they do not actually do something.”
The yield on US Treasuries due in a decade fell two basis points to 2.20%, having surged as much as 45 basis points in the wake of Trump’s election win to reach this year’s high of 2.30% on Monday. Traders assign about a 94% probability, the highest level of 2016, to the Fed boosting rates at its final meeting for the year on Dec. 13-14, futures contracts indicate.
“The market is firming in its expectations that the Fed is going to go,” said Aaron Kohli, a fixed-income strategist in New York at BMO Capital Markets Corp., one of 23 primary dealers that trade with the central bank. “We sold off very sharply in the last week and a half, and there’s some money that’s being put to work.”
The government will sell Treasury Inflation Protected Securities on Thursday and demand may be robust with BlackRock Inc., Fidelity Investments and Pacific Investment Management Co. — which oversee almost $9 trillion combined — all having recommended the securities since the US election amid concern that consumer-price gains will accelerate.
New Zealand’s 10-year bonds rose for a third day, pushing their yield down by nine basis points to 3.01%. Similar-maturity notes in Australia gained for a second day.
Japan’s 10-year yield held steady at 0.011%. The Bank of Japan announced its first operations to purchase bonds at a fixed rate, a tool it introduced when deciding in September it would seek to control the yield curve. The purchases are targeting notes with maturities of up to five years.
Crude fell 0.2% to $45.50 a barrel in New York after US inventories rose for a third week. Prices were also depressed as oil ministers from Iran and Iraq, the two producers that pose the biggest obstacle to a proposed output cut by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, were set to skip talks this week in Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran remain at odds over how to share production curbs, said an OPEC delegate, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Brent crude in London slipped 0.2% to $46.56 a barrel.
Copper declined from a two-year high in Shanghai and volumes shrank as Chinese investor interest in the metal cooled. Futures in China have fallen 6.5% this week, and traded at 43,670 yuan a metric ton. London Metal Exchange prices were up 0.9% Thursday, paring declines this week to 1.2%.
Gold has stabilized after its US election thrashing and is on course to end the week little changed, even as investors bail from bullion-backed exchange-traded funds. Bullion for immediate delivery climbed as much as 0.3% to $1,229.19 an ounce before trading at $1,228.41, according to Bloomberg generic pricing.