Picture: 123RF/SOLAR SEVEN
Picture: 123RF/SOLAR SEVEN

London — Europe’s share indices opened lower on Wednesday, while investors focused on the US Federal Reserve meeting and US tech giants’ earnings.

MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was down 0.1% at 8.42am GMT, having edged down in the last week after it hit a record high on January 21. In the Asian session on Wednesday, shares were hurt by some profit-taking, as investors grew wary of stretched valuations.

European share indices opened in the red. The Stoxx 600 was down about 0.3% on the day at 8.54am GMT. London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.2% while Germany’s DAX was down 0.5%.

The dollar rose against a basket of currencies as European markets opened, and was at 90.275 at 8.46am GMT, up 0.1% on the day.

The Fed is not expected to make any policy changes but investors will be listening for changes in tone about the economic outlook and any mention of slowing down — or “tapering” — the Fed's asset purchases.

“The big question will be over any timetable for tapering asset purchases, but Powell is likely to adopt a dovish tone on this, and reiterate that it’s premature to contemplate this given the challenging near-term outlook and remaining uncertainties,” Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid wrote in a note to clients.

The US 10-year Treasury yield held close to the three-week low it hit in the previous session, and was broadly flat on the day at 1.0398% at 8.46am GMT.

Quarterly earnings from US tech giants including Facebook and Apple, due later in the session, were also in focus.

“With some financial assets currently trading at what many are describing as bubble territory, there’ll be heightened attention on these releases to see whether these current valuations are justified,” Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid said.

Although S&P 500 e-minis were down about 0.1%, Nasdaq futures were up 0.4% at 8.47am GMT, helped by strong Microsoft earnings the previous session. Microsoft said its Azure cloud computing services grew 50%.

Heightened participation of retail investors in the stock market has come into focus this week, as amateur traders on Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets stock trading discussion group piled into GameStop, causing it to skyrocket while professional short-sellers scrambled to cover losing bets.

To some stock market professionals, the recent moves look symbolic of a stock market that may be overvalued at the end of a year dominated by floods of fiscal and monetary stimulus to ease the coronavirus crisis.

The International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for global economic growth in 2021, and said the coronavirus-triggered downturn in 2020 would be nearly one percentage point less severe than expected.

Global Covid-19 cases surpassed 100-million on Wednesday and countries around the world are struggling with new variants of the virus and delays in vaccine rollouts.

The US aims to have enough vaccine doses to vaccinate most Americans by the northern hemisphere summer, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

In Europe, supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine have been delayed. Hospitalisations in France hit an eight-week high.

The euro was down 0.1% at $1.21455 at 8.48am GMT, while eurozone government bond yields edged up slightly.

Gold was down about 0.2%. Bitcoin was down about 3.3%.

Oil prices rose after industry data showed US crude stockpiles fell unexpectedly last week and China recorded its lowest daily rise in Covid-19 cases in more than two weeks.


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