SYDNEY (Reuters) – Global shares idled just below record highs on Tuesday and currencies held tight ranges as nervous investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting, one of several central bank decisions this week that could set the tone for risk appetite.
The Reserve Bank of Australia was the main focus on Tuesday, as it took a step toward unwinding extraordinary pandemic stimulus policies by abandoning an ultra-low target for bond yields. The spotlight now swings to the Fed and then the Bank of England, which also have meetings this week.
Asian shares were mixed with the MSCI’s gauge of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan holding steady at 0435 GMT, Japan’s Nikkei edging 0.4% lower and futures pointed to a weaker European and U.S. open.
The MSCI’s world equities index was down a marginal 0.02%, with Pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures 0.25% lower and E-mini futures for the S&P 500 index down 0.21%.
In Asia, the RBA defied investor expectations for a more hawkish pivot, pushing the Aussie and kiwi dollars lower and drove short-term bonds higher.
“The market was pricing way more,” said GSFM investment strategist Stephen Miller. “They thought that the RBA would take bigger steps to remove monetary accommodation given the upside risks to inflation and I think the RBA have made the minimum adjustment possible.”
The Aussie was 0.25% lower to be within its two-week range at $0.75 while the kiwi moved 0.1% lower to $0.7172. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.5%.
Australian 3-year benchmark bond yields were 6 basis points lower at 0.98%, compared with their recent 1.267% high on Oct. 29, while 10-year bonds pared earlier losses to push yields to 1.958%.
U.S. 10-year yields held steady and 2-year treasury yields were one basis point lower to 0.491%.
Chinese shares fell 0.6%, dragged by financials and consumer firms even as the country’s cabinet pledged more support for the consumer services sector, while tech stocks drove Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index 0.6% higher.
South Korea’s KOSPI index gained 1.50%.
Overnight, Wall Street advanced to record highs helped by gains for energy shares and Tesla.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.26%, after eclipsing 36,000 points for the first time during intraday trading. The S&P 500 gained 0.18% while the Nasdaq Composite added 0.63%.
The yen was 0.31% weaker at 113.65 per dollar and the euro also edged 0.07% lower to $1.15995.
The Fed on Wednesday is expected to approve plans to scale back its $120 billion monthly bond-buying programme, while investors will also focus on commentary about interest rates and how sustained the recent surge in inflation is.
“The elephant in the room is headline and underlying inflation, which are higher than the (Fed) was anticipating,” said Standard Chartered’s head of G10 FX, Steve Englander.
“We expect the (Federal Open Market Committee) to state that the Fed is ready to act decisively if inflation is not moving towards target levels when tapering ends, but it still expects inflation to fall as supply constraints ease. We think investors will see this as advancing the likely timing of Fed rate hikes,” he said.
In commodities markets, a further 4% drop in Chinese coal prices on Tuesday pushed them 50% below last month’s record high.
Oil prices were little changed as expectations of strong demand and a belief that a key producer group will not turn on the spigots too fast helped reverse initial losses caused by the release of fuel reserves by No. 1 world energy consumer China.
U.S. crude was 0.08% lower at $83.98 per barrel and Brent was trading at $84.76, up 0.03%.
Spot gold was 0.1% higher to $1,793.24 an ounce. Bitcoin was 0.7% higher at $61,365.2.
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