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European shares strengthen, but tech stocks under pressure

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European shares strengthen, but tech stocks under pressure 1

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares opened generally higher on Wednesday but world shares remained in the red after a weak Asian session, even after Fed Chair Jerome Powell pushed back against inflation fears.

Falling tech stocks pulled Asian markets lower overnight, as recent gains in U.S. Treasury yields put lofty valuations under pressure.

In his testimony before the U.S. Senate, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell did not seem too worried about rising yields, telling Congress they were a statement on the market’s confidence in the pandemic recovery.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield edged back down below its recent one-year high, although it rose as European markets opened.

“Powell’s comments reinforce our view that the increase in inflation expectations is most likely transitory and that higher Treasury yields primarily reflect optimism over the economic recovery and the reflation trade,” wrote UBS chief investment officer for global wealth management, Mark Haefele, in a note to clients.

“Investors should expect an extended period in which interest rates remain below inflation.”

Europe’s STOXX 600 rose in early trading, up 0.1% at 0843 GMT, Germany’s DAX was up 0.4%, but London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.7%.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was down 0.4%, having lost 2.3% since it last hit an all-time high on Feb. 16.

U.S. futures pointed to a weaker open for Wall Street, with futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq in decline for the seventh consecutive day.

Tech stocks are particularly sensitive to rising yields because their value rests heavily on earnings in the future, which are discounted more deeply when bond returns go up.

Bitcoin recovered somewhat, up 3.3% at around $50,500 at 0846 GMT, but was still down 13.5% from the all-time high above $58,000 it reached on Sunday.

“I suspect we are in a bubble in certain places, that stimulus cheques will provide more fire to that at some point but that risk assets are going to be constantly buffeted by the risk of higher yields and inflation regardless of whether it has any structural roots or not,” wrote Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid in a note to clients.

One year on from the start of the COVID-19 market crash, financial market participants were generally upbeat about the prospect of vaccine rollouts, lockdowns ending and economies re-opening.

Strong exports and solid construction activity helped the German economy to grow by a stronger-than-expected 0.3% in the final quarter of last year, the Federal Statistics Office said on Wednesday, revising up an earlier estimate.

U.S. consumer confidence increased in February and Britons rushed to book foreign holidays after the government laid out plans to relax restrictions. But EU government leaders will agree on Thursday to maintain curbs on non-essential travel within the bloc.

The dollar was down 0.1% versus a basket of currencies at 0849 GMT, while euro-dollar was slightly up at $1.2165.

The benchmark 10-year German Bund was a touch lower at -0.325%.

Elsewhere, oil prices slipped after industry data showed a surprise build in U.S. crude stocks last week.

Brent crude futures have still gained 26% so far in 2021 and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures have risen 27%.

Spot gold rose, hovering just below the previous session’s one-week high.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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