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The euro huddled at a two-decade low on Thursday and oil nursed losses as investors fretted about a looming recession, while equities were caught between growth worries and relief that a slowdown might put the brakes on interest rate hikes.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up from a two-month low and rose 0.3% in early trade. Japan’s Nikkei advanced 0.7%. The Australian and New Zealand dollars scraped themselves from two-year lows.
S&P 500 futures were flat. Overnight the index rose 0.4% and treasuries dropped as traders grappled with generally positive US economic data, with solid job openings, and hawkish minutes from the June Federal Reserve meeting.
“The coincidence of fairly hot job market data and far more resilient ISM [Institute of Supply Management] services ... further underpins the point that the Fed is unlikely to step down the pace and intensity of tightening,” said Mizuho economist Vishnu Varathan.
Two-year treasury yields shot up 14 basis points overnight and hovered at 2.9691% in the Asia session. That is above the 10-year yield of 2.9206%, showing the bond market is pointing to a slowdown in growth as rate hikes hit.
The US data showed job openings higher than expected and the services sector holding up. The next big data point is on Friday when broader labour market numbers can provide a fuller picture of the state of the world’s biggest economy.
“The next litmus test for the direction in yields ... will be the speeches by Bullard and Waller, who should shed more light into the thinking of the hawkish camp within the [Fed],” said NatWest Markets’ rates strategist Jan Nevruzi.
“Are they leaning into the recessionary fears or continuing to press on that the Fed has to go above neutral as quickly as possible and contain inflation no matter the cost to growth?”
James Bullard, the St Louis Fed president, and Fed governor Christopher Waller are both due to speak at 5pm GMT.
The global rate tightening seen over recent months, led by the Fed, has stoked recession fears and hurt growth-sensitive commodities such as copper, oil and iron ore. The euro has also been hammered as investors see Europe as ground zero for a global slowdown.
Brent crude futures dipped below $100 a barrel early in the Asia session and were last at $100.26, down 10% for the week so far. Shanghai copper steadied but has lost 20% in a month.
Growth-sensitive currencies such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars have also lost ground, though they inched higher on Thursday, with the Aussie last up 0.5% to $0.6813.
The euro, meanwhile, is fast approaching parity on the dollar and has dived more than 2% so far this week, touching its lowest level since 2002 at $1.0162 and steadying at $1.0202 on Thursday.
Europe’s inflation is running at record levels and surging energy prices suggest the upward pressure on consumer prices will remain stiff for a while longer. With worry about the longevity of Russian gas supply to the West, benchmark Dutch gas prices have doubled since the middle of June.
Year-ahead German electricity prices hit a record overnight.
“It’s not just a question of recession, it’s a question of how dark it gets in Europe,” said Chris Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne. “All the market players that follow trends have just been piling in to euro shorts.”
One somewhat surprising standout has been the relative stability of sterling in spite of the US dollar’s strength and the precarious state of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership — primarily because markets don’t see much changing if he quits.
“One reason sterling is not faring too badly is the view that a new Tory government and chancellor will fast-track fiscal easing,” said National Australia Bank’s head of FX, Ray Attrill, adding that a hawkish tone from the central bank also helped.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.