Dollar hits eight-month high; stocks post weekly gain

October 20, 2016 9:01 PM EDT

A man stands next to an electronic board showing stock prices in Tokyo, Japan, August 18, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon


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By Dion Rabouin

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar rose to its highest since early February against a basket of currencies on Friday as investors increased bets on higher U.S. interest rates, while a measure of world stocks posted its first weekly gain in four weeks despite some soft U.S. corporate results.

On Wall Street, energy and healthcare stocks weighed on the S&P 500 and Dow, but Microsoft touching an all-time high moved the Nasdaq to positive territory. A potential merger between AT&T and Time Warner lifted the latter's shares to their highest in 15 years.

GE dampened sentiment after the conglomerate cut its full-year revenue growth target and narrowed its profit forecast. GE's weak report came on the heels of lackluster results from heavyweights such as Verizon and Travelers this week.

"If companies cannot beat estimates in this (low-rate) environment, it raises the question of what will happen when the Fed raises rates in December," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive at Sarhan Capital.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 16.64 points, or 0.09 percent, to 18,145.71, the S&P 500 lost 0.18 points, or 0.01 percent, to 2,141.16 and the Nasdaq Composite added 15.57 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,257.40.

World stocks, as measured by MSCI's world index, slipped on Friday but posted their first week of gains since September. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.4 percent and the pan-European STOXX 600 index closed a hair lower.

In currencies, the euro hit a seven-month low against the dollar of $1.0858 following the European Central Bank's decision to leave its ultra-loose policy unchanged on Thursday, keeping the door open to more stimulus in December.

"What the announcement from the ECB might’ve done is make it clear that we’re going to be in wait-and-see mode on the two most important central banks in the world until December," said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at TIAA Global Asset Management in New York.

"And I wonder how much the market’s going to be able to move in either direction until we learn exactly what they have in store."

The dollar also was bolstered by comments from New York Federal Reserve President William Dudley earlier this week that the Fed was prepared to raise U.S. overnight interest rates, and by decreasing likelihood of Donald Trump winning the U.S. presidency.

A Trump victory is seen as more likely to create uncertainty and market volatility, which could delay an interest rate increase.

Traders are now pricing in a 70-percent chance the Fed will raise rates in December, according to CME Group’s FedWatch Tool.

China's offshore yuan fell to its lowest against the dollar in six years, pressuring the currencies and equity shares of emerging market countries that rely on exporting to the world's second largest economy.

MSCI's emerging markets index fell 0.23 percent.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury yields edged down modestly in step with their European counterparts, pushing both yield curves to their flattest level in a week, in the wake of Draghi's comments about bond purchases.

"Draghi basically told people they could play in the long end," said Tom di Galoma, managing director at Seaport Global Holdings in New York.

Oil prices edged up but posted their first weekly loss since mid-September. Brent crude futures rose 0.84 percent while U.S. WTI crude futures gained 0.57 percent.

(Reporting by Dion Rabouin; Additional reporting by Richard Leong and Karen Brettell in New York and Alistair Smout in London; Editing by Nick Zieminski)



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