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FED’S EVANS SAYS RATES SHOULD BE AT ROCK BOTTOM UNTIL 2015

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Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans said that raising interest rates would not be the answer to preventing another round of instability within the financial markets. Considered one of US Federal Reserve’s most dovish policy makers, Evans said that the central bank will probably raise interest rates in the second half of next year and the timing would depend largely on the pace of inflation. The Chicago Fed President has in recent years played a central role in FOMC deliberations. Evans was the first Federal Reserve official to propose a link between policy and numerical economic thresholds, and was also an early proponent for the current round of asset purchases, which began in September 2012.

Asian markets shrug-off weak U.S. cues

FED’S EVANS SAYS RATES SHOULD BE AT ROCK BOTTOM UNTIL 2015 3Markets in Asia erased early morning losses to rise on the final day of the trading week. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei rebounded from lows made earlier in the session after data showed that consumer price inflation in the country for February rose at an annual 1.3 percent pace, in line with estimates. Retail sales grew 3.6 percent from the year earlier, topping expectations for a 3.2 percent rise. But household spending declined more than expected. Analysts said that following these reports, the hopes for a near-term stimulus from the Bank of Japan have dimmed. Shares in mainland China snapped their two-day losing streak, helped by some better than expected corporate earnings. Lenovo Group Limited (HKG:0992) is up a percent in Hong Kong despite the computer maker recalling some 37,400 battery packs, included in ThinkPad notebooks, sold in North America from October 2010 through April 2011, due to potential fire hazard. Australia’s benchmark S&P ASX 200 edged higher in a subdued session of trade, while the Australian dollar touched a fresh four-month high of $0.9293 against the greenback.

WTI Crude poised for biggest weekly gain in almost two months on Cushing stockpiles

West Texas Intermediate headed for its biggest weekly gain in nearly two months amid shrinking stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, the main U.S. oil storage hub, and investor concern that the crisis in Ukraine threatens supplies from Russia. U.S. President Barack Obama said sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea could include measures against the country’s energy industry. Meanwhile, protesters in Libya have blocked a pipeline carrying oil condensates from the al-Wafa oilfield to the Mellitah export port, Reuters reported late yesterday. The Mellitah complex is operated by state-owned National Oil Corp and Italy’s Eni SpA (BIT:ENI). Analysts expect WTI to rise next week as stockpiles at Cushing shrink further.

Strong demand for U.S. debt

A sale of U.S. seven-year Treasury paper drew strong demand, as direct bidders took a record share of the sale. The demand for U.S. debt has grown in recent weeks after data showed that  the amount of Treasuries that the Federal Reserve holds on behalf of foreign central banks, surged by a record $56 billion in the week to Thursday, following the $32 billion jump the week before. The increase in demand has helped lower the longer-term U.S. yields, with the spread between five-year notes and thirty-year bonds shrinking to its smallest in five years.

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World shares sink as bond yields, commodities surge

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World shares sink as bond yields, commodities surge 4

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) – World shares sank on Monday as expectations for faster economic growth and inflation battered bonds and boosted commodities, while rising real yields made equity valuations look more stretched in comparison.

MSCI’s All Country World Index, which tracks shares across 49 countries, was down 0.4% after the start of European trade.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 1%, at its lowest in 10 days. Germany’s DAX, France’s CAC 40 and Spain’s IBEX 35 index fell 1% each, Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 0.85% and Italy’s FTSE MIB index fell 0.9%. [.EU]

S&P 500 futures fell to their lowest since Feb. 4, down 1% on the day. [.N]

Bonds have been bruised by the prospect of a stronger economic recovery and greater borrowing as President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package progresses.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell delivers his semi-annual testimony before Congress this week and is likely to reiterate a commitment to keeping policy super easy for as long as needed to drive inflation higher.

“The coming week is relatively thin on the international data agenda, but after the recent rise in long bond yields, Fed Chairman Powell’s hearings in both chambers of Congress (Tuesday / Wednesday) will be attracting great interest,” said Elisabet Kopelman, U.S. economist at SEB.

“The fact that the most recent rise in long bond yields has been driven by higher real interest rates and not just inflation expectations increases the probability of a dovish message.”

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde is also expected to sound dovish in a speech later Monday.

Yields on 10-year Treasury notes have already reached 1.38%, breaking the psychological 1.30% level and bringing the rise for the year so far to a steep 43 basis points.

Analysts at BofA noted 30-year bonds had returned -9.4% in the year to date, the worst start since 2013.

“Real assets are outperforming financial assets big in ’21 as cyclical, political, secular trends say higher inflation,” the analysts said in a note. “Surging commodities, energy laggards in vogue, materials in secular breakouts.”

Earlier in Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan went flat, after slipping from a record top last week as the jump in U.S. bond yields unsettled investors.

Japan’s Nikkei recouped 0.8% and South Korea 0.1%, but Chinese blue chips lost 1.4%.

A COPPER-PLATED RECOVERY

One of the stars has been copper, a key component of renewable technology, which shot up 7.7% last week to a nine-year peak. The broader LMEX base metal index climbed 5.5% on the week.

Oil prices have gone along for the ride, aided by tightening supplies and freezing weather, giving Brent gains of 22% for the year so far. [O/R]

On Monday, Brent crude futures were up 0.7% at $63.33 a barrel. U.S. crude added 0.7% to $59.65.

All of that has been a boon for commodity-linked currencies, with the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollars all higher for the year so far.

Sterling reached a three-year top at $1.4050, aided by one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to outline a path from COVID-19 lockdowns on Monday.

The U.S. dollar index has been relatively range-bound, with downward pressure from the country’s expanding twin deficits balanced by higher bond yields. The index was last at 90.342, not far from where it started the year at 90.260.

Rising Treasury yields has helped the dollar gain against the yen to 105.60, given the Bank of Japan is actively restraining yields at home.

The euro was steady at $1.2104, corralled between support at $1.2021 and resistance around $1.2169.

One commodity not doing so well is gold, partly due to rising bond yields and partly as investors question if crypto currencies might be a better hedge against inflation. [GOL/]

Gold stood at $1,793 an ounce, having started the year at $1,896. Bitcoin was off 3.3% on Monday at $55,535, but started the year at $32,216.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; editing by Larry King)

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Sterling steadies around $1.40, long positions at one-year high

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Sterling steadies around $1.40, long positions at one-year high 5

LONDON (Reuters) – The pound hit a new three-year high of $1.4050 in early London trading on Monday, before stabilising around the $1.40 level, as bullish investors bet on the UK’s vaccination rollout bringing about an economic recovery.

Sterling rose to its highest levels since April 2018 when it crossed $1.40 on Friday, having risen 2.4% so far in 2021.

Analysts attributed the recent strengthening to the UK’s relative success in providing COVID-19 vaccinations, which is expected to help Britain’s economy rebound from its biggest contraction in 300 years.

Relief that a no-deal Brexit was avoided at the end of 2020 is also supporting the pound, as is a lessening of fears that the Bank of England could introduce negative interest rates.

Speculators added to their net long position for the third week running in the week to Feb. 16, CFTC positioning data showed. The market is at its most bullish in one year.

At 0839 GMT, the pound was at $1.3992, down 0.1% on the day. Versus the euro, it was up around 0.2% at 86.42 pence per euro, having touched a one-year high earlier in the session EURGBP=D3>.

“The move higher in cable this year has been primarily driven by pound strength rather than US dollar weakness,” wrote MUFG currency analyst Lee Hardman in a note to clients.

“If the highs from April 2018 are taken out it will encourage expectations that the pound is adjusting to a new higher equilibrium now that Brexit risks have diminished,” he said. “Whereas if those highs remain in place, market participants may then start to question whether recent pound strength is overshooting and thereby increasing the risk of a correction lower.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out a plan on Monday to release the UK from its third national lockdown.

Some 17.6 million people, over a quarter of the 67 million population, have now received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The UK is behind only Israel and the United Arab Emirates in vaccines per head of population.

The yield on British government bonds jumped on Monday, boosted by the prospect of heavy U.S. fiscal stimulus and the UK economy reopening.

“Markets are still adjusting to the fact that the Bank of England is unlikely to implement negative rates for now, leading to a narrowing of the US-UK 10-year yield differential,” UBS strategists wrote in a note to clients.

 

Sterling steadies around $1.40, long positions at one-year high 6

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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FTSE 100 falls as inflation concerns weigh

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FTSE 100 falls as inflation concerns weigh 7

(Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 fell on Monday as higher commodity prices sparked fears of a spike in inflation, while investors awaited Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan for a phased easing of business restrictions.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 fell 0.6%, led by declines in consumer staples and industrials stocks.

Oil heavyweights BP and Royal Dutch Shell dipped 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively, despite higher crude prices. [O/R]

Johnson will plot a path out of COVID-19 lockdown on Monday in an effort to gradually reopen the battered $3 trillion economy, aided by one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world.

The mid-cap index fell 0.3%, led by declines in financials and industrials stocks.

British Airways-owner IAG rose 1.1% after it said it raised total liquidity by 2.45 billion pounds ($3.4 billion), reaching final agreement for a 2-billion-pound loan, and through a deal to defer 450 million pounds of pension deficit contributions.

Pub operator Mitchells & Butlers shed 0.5% as it reported a plunge in sales due to all its sites having been forced shut under the latest lockdown.

(Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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