Wall Street succumbs to inflation fears, awaits Fed

The US Federal Reserve is widely expected to maintain its current accommodative posture, arguing that recent price increases will prove ephemeral
·3 min read

US stocks retreated on inflation fears Tuesday while European equities made gains, as investors await the outcome of the latest Federal Reserve meeting.

American traders began their morning with a flurry of government economic data for May pointing to a bumpy US recovery, including a 6.6 percent spike in producer prices in the latest 12 months and a 1.3 percent drop in retail sales.

Investors have been trying to balance optimism over the US economy's reopening with fears recent sharp prices will be long-lasting, and the latter won out in the day's trading, which saw the Dow lose 0.3 percent and the Nasdaq tumble 0.7 percent.

Sentiment could go any direction on Wednesday, when the Fed concludes the two-day meeting of its policy committee, which will be followed by a press conference by Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

The central bank is almost certain not to raise rates but could signal plans to at least discuss staring to taper the easy money policies that have buoyed markets despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Each month of high prices and sluggish labor market growth will test the Fed's patience," FHN Financial's Chris Low said in a commentary, though the central bank is likely to characterize the price jump as in line with expectations.

"Most likely, Powell will council patience that some of the strength will moderate in the next few months," Low said.

Several observers warn that the Fed's pledge to avoid tightening rates until US unemployment is tamed and inflation is consistently higher could backfire if the economy overheats.

That could force the central bank to raise borrowing costs faster than expected.

"We're in a tug-of-war between the understanding that we're having great economic growth and great earnings growth juxtaposed with the fact that we need to get our head wrapped around what inflation looks like," said Art Hogan, chief strategist at National Securities.

On the digital currency front, bitcoin dipped a little below $40,000 after Elon Musk said Tesla would start accepting the unit again once it is mined using energy that relies less on polluting sources.

Oil prices climbed as demand optimism overshadowed Covid-19 concerns, with both main crude contracts around multi-year highs.

"That oil has rallied so significantly in the face of notable US dollar strength suggests the rally has plenty left in it," OANDA analyst Jeffrey Halley said.

With crude prices listed in the US currency, dollar strength can make it more expensive to purchase for holders of rival units.

- Key figures at 2100 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 34,299.33 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.2 percent at 4,246.59 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.7 percent at 14,072.86 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.3 percent at 4,143.52 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,172.48 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.4 percent at 15,729.52 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.4 percent at 6,639.52 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.0 percent at 29,441.30 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.7 percent at 28,638.53 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.9 percent at 3,556.56 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2126 from $1.2124 at 2050 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4080 from $1.4107

Euro/pound: UP at 86.08 pence from 85.91 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.06 yen from 110.08 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.0 percent at $74.26 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.3 percent at $72.48 per barrel


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