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Stocks wilt, bond yields jump as investors focus on rates

Published 2024/05/29, 04:32
Updated 2024/05/29, 23:17
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Passersby walk in front of an electric screen displaying Japan's Nikkei share average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan March 21, 2024.  REUTERS/Issei Kato/FILE PHOTO

By Sinéad Carew and Harry Robertson

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) -A global equities gauge fell on Wednesday while U.S. Treasury yields rose after a third weak government debt auction in a row, and investors worried about higher interest rates while they waited for a key U.S. inflation report due on Friday.

The dollar index gained as it was bolstered by higher bond yields across the board and the greenback rose to a four-week high against the Japanese yen.

With Wall Street indexes losing ground after European stocks closed lower, MSCI's gauge of stocks in 47 countries fell 8.58 points, or 1.08%, to 783.87. The last time it had a bigger one-day percentage drop was April 30.

"On the equity market side we're getting close to month-end" so people may be taking profit, said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Alliance Investment Management, also citing a weak 7-year U.S. Treasuries note auction following similar results for Tuesday's 2-year and 5-year note auctions.

"With the seven-year auction selling notes at a higher rate than the pre-auction level, that's three auctions in a row where yields came in higher. Higher rates are less attractive from an equity valuation standpoint," said Ripley.

He noted that investors focused on the Treasury auctions as they were waiting for key economic data releases.

The U.S. Core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index report - the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation - is not due out until Friday and the May labor report is not due until a week later.

In late afternoon, a U.S. Federal Reserve survey known as the Beige Book showed economic activity continued to expand from early April through mid-May but firms grew more downbeat about the future amid weakening consumer demand while inflation continued to increase at a modest pace.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 411.32 points, or 1.06%, at 38,441.54, the S&P 500 finished off 39.09 points, or 0.74%, at 5,266.95 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 99.30 points, or 0.58%, to close at 16,920.58.

Earlier Europe's STOXX 600 index closed down 1.08% for its biggest one-day percentage decline since mid-April, as bond yields rose on worries interest rates will stay elevated for longer globally with fresh evidence of persistently high inflation in the region's biggest economy exacerbating concerns.

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield hit a four-week high and was last up 7.2 basis points at 4.614%. The 2-year note yield, which typically moves in step with interest rate expectations, rose 1.8 basis points to 4.9747%.

A closely watched part of the U.S. Treasury yield curve measuring the gap between yields on two- and 10-year Treasury notes, seen as an indicator of economic expectations, narrowed to negative 36.3 basis points.

The seven-year yield rose to 4.64% from 4.56%. An auction on Wednesday of $44 billion in U.S. seven-year debt resulted in a high yield of 4.65%, above the expected rate. This raised concerns about demand for government debt after lackluster auctions of U.S. two-year and five-year notes on Tuesday.

In currencies, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, gained 0.44% to 105.12, with the euro down 0.51% at $1.08.

Against the Japanese yen, the dollar strengthened 0.34% to 157.69, after hitting its highest level since May 1.

Oil prices eased on worries over weak U.S. gasoline demand and concerns the Fed will keep interest rates higher for longer.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., May 16, 2024.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

U.S. crude settled down 0.75% at $79.23 a barrel and Brent fell 0.74% at $83.60 per barrel.

Spot gold lost 1.01% to $2,337.07 an ounce as a stronger dollar, higher bond yields and hawkish comments from a Fed official on Tuesday still weighed on sentiment.

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