Shares, yields wobble on unclear rate cut timing

By Herbert Lash and Amanda Cooper

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Global and bond yields meandered on Wednesday after data showed U.S. services industry growth eased further in March, suggesting inflation is slowing, but not enough for the Federal Reserve to say when interest rates cuts can begin.

The U.S. central bank had been expected to start cutting rates as early as June, but robust economic data boosted Treasury yields this week to multi-month highs as many in the market questioned that timetable.

Fed chief Jerome Powell said policy makers largely agree lower rates will be appropriate “at some point this year,” but only after they “have greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably down” toward the 2% target.

Stocks initially fell after the ADP National Employment Report said private payrolls increased by 184,000 jobs in March, indicating a strong economy. The report also showed the median wage for workers switching jobs jumped 10% on an annual basis after increasing 7.6% in February, a bad sign for inflation.

But the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) survey for the U.S. services industry showed a measure of prices businesses paid for inputs fell to a four-year low, a good inflation sign.

MSCI’s gauge of global stock performance closed up 0.1%, while bond yields retreated. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note’s yield fell 1.6 basis points to 4.349% after hitting a four-month high of 4.429%.

Survey data such as ISM’s have been less useful in gauging the economy than gross domestic product, employment and even retail sales numbers, said Joe LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at SMBC Nikko Securities in New York.

“One of the problems is that the survey data have not been particularly accurate,” he said.

“I’m not sure the equity market’s reacting to any specific set of data at this point. It just seems to be a constant inflow (of investment) as the market keeps getting excited. One about AI and secondly about the prospects of an Immaculate landing.”

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.29%, as the ISM data cheered European investors. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 gained 0.11% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.23%, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.11%.

The Fed should not cut its benchmark rate until year’s end, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic told broadcaster CNBC, maintaining his view that policymakers should reduce borrowing costs only once in 2024.

The dollar index held near its highest level in more than four months, pinning the yen close to its lowest in decades, though the increased threat of currency intervention by Tokyo capped further declines in the Japanese currency.

The dollar index, a measure of the U.S. currency against six major trading partners, fell 0.50%. The dollar rose 0.11% to 151.68 yen.

Oil prices edged higher as investors mulled supply risks stemming from Ukrainian attacks on Russian refineries and the potential for escalation in the Middle East conflict, while OPEC+ ministers held steady their output policy.

U.S. crude settled up 28 cents at $85.43 a barrel, while Brent rose 43 cents to settle at $89.35 a barrel.

Gold prices raced to a record high yet again. U.S. gold futures settled 1.5% higher at $2,315 an ounce.

Bitcoin rose 0.21% to at $65,801.00.

(Additional reporting by Stella Qiu in Sydney. Editing by Sam Holmes, Bernadette Baum, Gareth Jones, Richard Chang and David Gregorio)

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