World stocks take small hit from Fed, BOJ supportive

Reuters
Pedestrians walk past a stock quotation board displaying stock prices outside a brokerage, in Tokyo June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files
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Pedestrians walk past a stock quotation board displaying stock prices outside a brokerage, in Tokyo June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Markets suffered a glancing blow on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest outlook was deemed less alarmist about the state of the economy than some had wagered, lifting both bond yields and the dollar.

The impact was mostly superficial, with European shares opening down just 0.2 percent after MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had edged back 0.6 percent.

In Asia, sentiment was helped by the Bank of Japan's decision to stick with a massive stimulus program that has shown tentative signs of breaking the grip of deflation.

And in Europe, some mildly disappointing German retail and French consumer data focused attention on the European Central Bank as one of its policymakers hinted at further injections of cheap cash.

That all helped lessen the drag from Wall Street, which had slipped after the U.S. central bank kept its $85 billion-a-month stimulus plan intact but did not sound quite as alarmed about the state of the economy as some had anticipated.

Given U.S. shares had reached record highs this week, the resulting profit-taking came as no surprise.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks 45 countries, eased 0.3 percent from a high not seen since January 2008.

Dealers said the market had talked itself into expecting the Fed would make "dovish" changes to its statement in favour of holding off longer with any monetary tightening. So it was somehow considered "hawkish" when those did not materialise.

"We interpreted the statement as neutral and balanced and think the Fed is essentially in a holding pattern," said analysts at Australia and New Zealand Bank.

U.S.-based Citibank moved its prediction for the Fed's first trimming of bond-buying forward to January and shortened the odds on a December move. But the vast majority of analysts still pointed to it holding off until later in the new year.

The Fed funds futures barely budged on the statement and short-dated Treasury yields stayed well anchored while the longer end moved up only modestly. Yields on the 10-year note were steady at 2.53 percent.

ECB FOCUS

Britain's FTSE 100 was down 25 points by 0830 GMT, or close to 0.4 percent, Germany's DAX 0.4 percent and France's CAC 40 0.3 percent. But with those markets in general hovering near 5-year highs there were few concerns.

A survey of Japanese manufacturing out on Thursday showed activity accelerated to its fastest in more than three years in September, although Japan's Nikkei fell 1.2 percent in late trading as corporate earnings from the likes of Honda Motor Co Ltd disappointed investors.

There was some soft European data to contend with. Euro zone unemployment was steady at a record high in September, German retail and French consumer was weaker-than expected while the pace of inflation slowed to a near 4-year low.

"In Europe the story is gradually becoming one of slow inflation again and that should be an additional argument for the ECB to do more." said Jan von Gerich, chief developed markets strategist for Nordea.

Benchmark European government bonds, were a touch softer amid the focus on ECB monetary policy.

Speaking in a TV interview, Ewald Nowotny, one of its longest serving policymakers said the central bank would provide more liquidity by the time cheap long-term loans it made in late 2011 and early 2012 expire.

The dollar index was fractionally higher on the day at 79.782 despite signs momentum was fading. The euro dipped to $1.3696.

The New Zealand dollar bounced after the country's central bank said increases in interest rates were still likely to be needed next year, putting it well ahead of most other developed economies in tightening.

The currency rallied as much as half a U.S. cent in reaction, though the central bank also noted that a strong currency meant it might be able to wait longer before having to raise rates.

Spot gold faded after rising the most in a week at one stage on Wednesday. It fetched $1,336.20 an ounce on Thursday.

Brent crude eased 31 cents to $109.25 a barrel.

(Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; editing by Patrick Graham)

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