NEW YORK: Global stock markets fell and the dollar gained ground on Monday as investors weighed new concerns over the Omicron variant and waited for news from a host of central bank meetings this week.
The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to signal a faster wind-down of asset purchases, which could move it one step closer raising interest rates. The Fed’s policy-setting committee will also update its members’ rate expectations over the next couple of years.
Fears over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 weighed on markets after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned of a “tidal wave” of new cases, and the World Health Organization said it poses a “very high” global risk, with some evidence that it evades vaccine protection.
The FTSE index fell 0.83% and sterling was down 0.41% on the day.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.60%, and the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.43%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 210.04 points, or 0.58%, to 35,760.95, the S&P 500 lost 23.59 points, or 0.50%, to 4,688.43 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 118.29 points, or 0.76%, to 15,512.31.
The dollar edged higher ahead of the upcoming meetings, with investors eyeing the possibility that the Fed will start to raise rates in 2022.
“Nearly everyone expects the pace of tapering to accelerate and to finish at the end of (the first quarter next year),” analysts from BannockBurn wrote in a note to investors.
The European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan are also meeting this week. All are heading toward normalizing policy at their own, often glacial, pace.
“If the Fed increases the taper from $15 billion to something like $30 billion they could be finished by March, which would allow them to look to hike rates after that,” said April LaRusse, head of fixed income investment specialists at Insight Investment.
The U.S. Treasury market has taken the risk of earlier Fed hikes with equanimity, perhaps looking ahead to lower inflation over the long run and a lower peak for the cash rate.
At 1.42%, 10-year Treasury yields remain well below this year’s peak of 1.776%. [US/]
The ECB, meeting on Thursday, is likely to confirm that its 1.85 trillion euro ($2.09 trillion) pandemic emergency stimulus scheme will end next March.
Expectations for a rate hike at Thursday’s Bank of England meeting have been pulled back as Omicron raises concern about the near-term economic outlook.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback versus a basket of six currencies, rose 0.212 point or 0.22 percent, to 96.309. The euro was down 0.2% to $1.1288.
Oil futures eased as new doubts emerged about the effectiveness of vaccines against the Omicron coronavirus variant, though OPEC predicted in its monthly report that the variant’s impact on fuel demand would be mild.
Brent futures settled down 1.01% at $74.39 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude settled down 0.53% at $71.29.
Turkey’s lira fell to a record low near 15 to the dollar, gripped by worries over President Tayyip Erdogan’s risky new economic policy and prospects of another rate cut at Thursday’s central bank meeting.
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