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Picture: 123RF/PHONG PHAN
Picture: 123RF/PHONG PHAN

London — World stocks, oil prices and the dollar firmed on Monday as a generally upbeat mood took hold of world markets ahead of a host of central bank meetings this week that includes the US Federal Reserve.

Equity markets across Europe opened higher, with the pan-region Stoxx 600 index last up 0.35%, while US equity futures were about 0.25% firmer.

China’s blue-chip CSI300 index closed up 0.6%. It rose to its highest in almost five months on hopes for more stimulus as the country’s top leaders vowed to prioritise economic stability in 2022.

Omicron remained a concern with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning of a “tidal wave” of new cases of the coronavirus variant, but markets are counting on vaccines to limit the economic fallout.

That view helped lift oil prices about 1%, while the dollar was broadly firm ahead of Tuesday’s two-day Federal Reserve meeting.

The US central bank is widely expected to signal a faster tapering of asset buying, and thus an earlier start to rate hikes. It will also update the dot plots for rates over the next couple of years.

The market is already well ahead, with a 25 basis point rise fully priced in by June.

Also meeting are the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan and all are heading towards normalising policy at their own, often glacial, pace.

“We expect that ultimately, the main central banks will begin hiking interest rates, and the market certainly expects that,” said April LaRusse, head of fixed income investment specialists at Insight Investment.

“If the Fed increases the taper from $15bn to something like $30bn they could be finished by March, which would allow them to look to hike rates after that,” she added.

The Treasury market has taken the risk of earlier Fed hikes with equanimity, perhaps in the belief that it will mean lower inflation over the long run and a lower peak for the cash rate.

Yields on 10-year notes rose almost 13 basis points last week, but at 1.49% remain well below the high for the year of 1.776%.

The prospect of a more aggressive Fed has been supportive of the dollar.

On Monday, the dollar index was about 0.2% firmer at 96.328. The greenback was also up almost a fifth of percent at 113.60 yen, while the euro slipped a quarter of a percent to $1.12875.

“We think the bar for a hawkish surprise from the Fed is set high, so unless it delivers a major revision to its forward guidance, the dollar rally looks due a pause,” said Jonathan Petersen, a market economist at Capital Economics.

“That said, there is scope for the greenback to appreciate further over the course of next year.”

Britain’s pound weakened about 0.4% to $1.3224, with the government’s latest warnings on the spread of Omicron weighing on sentiment.

Turkey’s lira meanwhile crashed as much as 7% in just a few minutes to a new record near 15 to the dollar, gripped by worries over President Tayyip Erdogan’s risky new economic policy and prospects of another interest rate cut on Thursday.

In commodity markets, gold was busy going nowhere at $1,786 an ounce after gaining only fleeting support from Friday’s lofty US inflation reading.

Reuters

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