By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Global stocks eased and the 10-year Treasury yield almost hit levels last seen in 2007 as a plunge in U.S. homebuilding last month underscored the balancing act the Federal Reserve faces in presenting its outlook on inflation and the economy this week.
Traders and investors avoided big bets ahead of rate decisions by the Fed on Wednesday, the Bank of England on Thursday and the Bank of Japan on Friday, in a week with policy outlooks also expected from other central banks.
Oil prices rose for a fourth straight session, with futures for global benchmark Brent crude climbing past $95 a barrel, a surge that exacerbates concerns on whether rates need to go higher to quash inflation.
Futures suggest a 99% likelihood that the U.S. central bank will pause its aggressive rate hikes on Wednesday, when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is expected to maintain a hawkish stance at a news conference.
"I expect a reprise of the Jackson Hole speech from Powell," said Bill Sterling, global strategist at GW&K Investment Management LLC in Boston.
"They're still very serious about getting back to 2% inflation, are prepared to raise rates more if necessary, with a nod to the idea that there's a two-sided risk in the economy," which pits strong economic growth versus declining incomes.
The impact of rising interest rates has crimped demand in U.S. housing as a resurgence in mortgage rates led homebuilding in August to plunge to more than a three year-low.
The market has adjusted its outlook and removed a significant amount of rate cutting by the Fed next year due to two factors, said Joe LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at SMBC Nikko Securities America Inc in New York.
"One is fear that inflation, I think incorrectly, might remain sticky, especially with oil prices going higher. Now there's another concern, the potential wage negotiations with the auto workers that might be inflationary," he said.
But job openings are weakening sharply, a good sign for lower employment costs, he said.
The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose to 4.365%, a notch below the almost 16-year high of 4.366% reached on Aug. 22. The two-year yield, which reflects interest rate expectations, rose 3 basis points to 5.094%.
A jump in the annual pace of Canadian inflation due to rising gasoline prices helped feed expectations interest rates will stay higher for longer. Futures show the Fed will keep its overnight lending rate above the 5% mark until late July 2024.
MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe closed down 0.17%, while the pan-regional STOXX 600 index in Europe edged 0.04% lower.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.31%, the S&P 500 lost 0.22% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.23%. The dollar index , which gauges the currency against six major peers, was up 0.06% at 105.13, not far from Thursday's six-month high of 105.43.
Investors and central bankers are contending with a more than 30% rise in oil prices since late June as Saudi Arabia and Russia limit supply and as demand has picked up, while weak U.S. shale output has also increased concerns.
Oil prices slid on Tuesday after hitting 10-month highs after investors took profits following three sessions of gains.
U.S. crude futures settled down 28 cents at $91.20 a barrel, while Brent futures fell 9 cents to settle at $94.34 after retreating from the day's high of $95.96.
Samuel Zief, head of global FX strategy at JPMorgan Private Bank, said central banks should not be overly concerned by the run-up in crude, which he said should fade as economies slow.
"What the central banks are really, really focused on, it's not really the supply-side energy shocks anymore, it's really the sticky services part of the inflation basket," he said.
The Bank of England sets policy on Thursday and is expected to hike rates by 25 basis points to 5.5%, in what many investors believe will be the last increase of the cycle.
The Bank of Japan is expected to leave rates on hold in negative territory on Friday, although it too will be scrutinized for clues about the outlook after Governor Kazuo Ueda hinted at a move away from ultra-loose policy.
Gold held near a two-week peak, though prices were stuck in a narrow range as the focus turned to the Fed's policy meeting.
U.S. gold futures settled little changed at $1,953.70 an ounce.
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