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High-flying stocks wait on Fed signals, Apple results

By Matt Scuffham and Marc Jones

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – World shares cosied up close to record highs and the dollar and global bond yields nudged up on Wednesday, as traders waited to see if the U.S. Federal Reserve utters the dreaded ‘T’ word later – tapering of its mass stimulus programme.

The broad expectation is that it won’t want to unsettle markets for now, and with a packed day of corporate earnings, economic data and U.S. President Joe Biden’s first address before a joint Congress session, there was plenty to navigate.

MSCI’s broadest index of world shares was sidestepping towards its best month of the year so far.

The index, which tracks shares in 49 nations, rose 0.54 point, or 0.08 percent, to 706.08.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 113 points, or 0.33%, to 33,871.93, the S&P 500 gained 5.3 points, or 0.13%, to 4,192.02 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 23.69 points, or 0.17%, to 14,066.53.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.11%

The dollar was on course for its first unbroken two-day run of gains of the month – April is currently set to be its cruellest month since last July.

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 2/32 in price to yield 1.6289%, from 1.622% late on Tuesday.

“The thing that we are going to watch most closely is if the Fed says anything along the lines of tapering of asset purchases,” said Jim Caron, a senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

“As long that doesn’t get mentioned, we are all good,” he said, explaining that with the coronavirus pandemic still worsening in many parts of the world, investors would view any move towards tapering as premature.

Most Fed watchers expect Chairman Jerome Powell to repeat the bank’s recent message that its low interest rates and support programmes will remain in place for a long time yet.

Biden will also address Congress and is likely to underscore his administration’s plans for infrastructure and stimulus spending.

These developments would normally be positive for stocks, but analysts say so much economic optimism is already priced into the equity market that it is difficult to budge equities from current levels.

Otherwise, Europe’s traders were waiting to hear from ECB President Christine Lagarde and other top policymakers. Economic data releases showed an unexpected drop in Germany’s GfK consumer confidence reading for May though an equivalent in France at least stayed steady for April.

For a graphic on Global markets in April and year to date:

https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xklpyyyoxpg/Pasted%20image%201619600308252.png

APPLE EYED

U.S. earnings later include tech and internet giants Apple, Facebook and Qualcomm, as well as Ford. [.N]

Facebook is expected to report a revenue rise due to online advertising demand during the COVID pandemic, while Apple is expected to post a more than 32% jump in revenue, driven by 5G phone demand.

There was a mixed bag of earnings from Tesla, 3M, Microsoft, and Google-parent Alphabet on Tuesday.

In the FX markets, the dollar index rose 0.144%, with the euro down 0.21% to $1.2065.

As well as the rise in Treasury yields helping the dollar higher, break-even rates on 10-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, a measure of expected annual inflation for the coming decade, rose to 2.41%, the highest since 2013.

In the cryptocurrency market there was excitement as the European Investment Bank said it would sell a two-year digital bond worth 100 million euros ($120 million) on the ethereum blockchain network.

Rival cryptocurrency Bitcoin fell 0.6%.

In commodities, spot gold dropped 0.4% to $1,769.84 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.72% to $1,765.20 an ounce.

($1 = 0.8278 euros)

(Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Steve Orlofsky)

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