An index of global stock markets slipped on Thursday as investors worried about uncertainty over the outlook for U.S. interest rate cuts even as weak U.S. manufacturing data raised concerns about the health of the world’s largest economy.
U.S. manufacturing industries recorded their first month of contraction in almost a decade amid concerns about whether the U.S.-China trade conflict would tip the economy into a recession, a private survey showed.
“Manufacturing has been pretty weak across the globe for a while now and we are starting to see that bleed into the U.S.,” said Joe Mallen, chief investment officer at Helios Quantitative Research.
Investors’ focus, however, remained firmly on Friday’s speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at a Jackson Hole, Wyoming, event, which could offer clarity on the direction of U.S. monetary policy.
The Fed has come under increasing pressure to cut borrowing costs more, including a call by America’s president Donald Trump on Wednesday for the Fed to slash its benchmark rate.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was down 0.31%.
On Wall Street, stocks opened higher as strong results from retailers bolstered confidence in consumer demand. But they retreated following the dismal U.S. manufacturing data and a comment from Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Patrick Harker saying he does not see the case for additional stimulus.
At midday, however, the Dow reversed course, helped by a 3.9% jump in Boeing’sshares after a Reuters report that the company has told suppliers it will resume production of its best-selling 737 jets at a rate of 52 aircraft per month in February 2020.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 44.69 points, or 0.17%, to 26,247.42, the S&P 500 lost 4.64 points, or 0.16%, to 2,919.79 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 39.49 points, or 0.49%, to 7,980.72.
lost 0.40European shares, which found support from upbeat surveys on Germany and the euro zone, declined on a report that the Bundesbank sees no need for German fiscal stimulus right now. The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.40%.
In currency markets, the U.S. dollar weakened as investors braced for a possible announcement or statement from the Jackson Hole meeting.
While the Fed’s latest minutes showed U.S. policymakers are reluctant to begin a big rate-cutting cycle in the coming months, market participants still expect the Fed to signal a stimulus measure, or an affirmation that the U.S. central bank is on a steady path to ease interest rates, a scenario viewed as negative for the dollar.
“Jackson Hole is going to provide an opportunity for the Fed to correct that communication mistake in the minutes,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.
The dollar slipped 0.11 percent against a basket of major currencies to 98.19.
Frontpage December 20, 2019