Stocks rise with Treasury yields on pause, Powell boosts rate cut hopes

July 9, 2024 9:47 PM EDT

A man walks past an electric screen displaying Japan's Nikkei share average and a graph showing its recent movements outside a brokerage in Tokyo, July 9, 2024 REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Sinéad Carew and Lawrence White

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) -A global equities gauge rose to record levels on Wednesday while U.S. Treasury yields edged down with comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell fuelling hopes for interest rate cuts as investors awaited key U.S. inflation data.

Powell told lawmakers in Congress that he was not yet ready to declare inflation beaten but that the U.S. remained on a path back to stable prices and continued low unemployment and that the Fed was "very focused on staying on that path."

The U.S. dollar edged lower while the euro rose slightly and sterling rallied as comments from the Bank of England's chief economist dampened expectations for an August rate cut.

On Tuesday, Powell had told Congress that since the U.S. economy was no longer running too hot the central bank has to weigh risks and would be able to cut rates once inflation makes more progress.

"Powell's reiterating the message that if inflation continues to cool the Fed should be ready to move rates. It does also feel like he's added a bit more emphasis on the labor market as well," said Mona Mahajan senior investment strategist at Edward Jones in New York. "It looks like September and December are back on the table for rate cuts."

Added to Powell's comments, Mahajan said the slight dip in bond yields appeared to be supporting equities too.

Investors are also waiting for June's Consumer Price Index report (CPI), due out on Thursday, and the Producer Price Index (PPI) report, which comes on Friday, and expect the data to add to optimism that the Fed will be able to cut rates this year.

Traders are currently pricing in a 46% probability that the Fed will have cut rates by two notches by the end of December's meeting and a 70% probability for the first cut in September, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 429.39 points, or 1.09%, to 39,721.36, the S&P 500 gained 56.93 points, or 1.02%, to 5,633.91 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 218.16 points, or 1.18%, to 18,647.45.

For the S&P 500, Wednesday marked its sixth straight record high close and the Nasdaq's record closing high was its seventh in a row.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe rose 7.03 points, or 0.86%, to 824.81. This marked the global index's sixth record high close out of the last 7 sessions as well as its biggest one-day percentage gain since June 12.

Europe's STOXX 600 index earlier closed up 0.91%.

In Treasuries, Powell's dovish-leaning comments sent yields lower and a solid U.S. 10-year note auction also marginally added bids to Treasuries that weighed on yields as well.

The yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year notes fell 1.8 basis points to 4.282%, from 4.3% late on Tuesday while the 30-year bond yield fell 2.5 basis points to 4.4702%.

The 2-year note yield, which typically moves in step with interest rate expectations, fell 0.6 basis points to 4.6221%, from 4.628% late on Tuesday.

In currencies, the dollar edged lower with the prospect for rate cuts still in focus as Powell wrapped up his testimony.

“Powell took a relatively cautious approach,” said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Corpay in Toronto. “But there were enough dovish hints within his narrative to help risk appetite improve in markets.”

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies including the yen and the euro, fell 0.09% to 105.02. The euro was up 0.13% at $1.0826 while sterling strengthened 0.48% at $1.2844.

But against the Japanese yen, the dollar strengthened 0.26% to 161.73.

In commodities, oil prices settled higher after data showed that a jump in U.S. refining activity last week prompted a bigger draw than expected from gasoline and crude inventories but gains were capped as Hurricane Beryl brought minimal supply disruptions.

U.S. crude settled up 0.85%, or 69 cents at $82.10 a barrel and Brent settled at $85.08 per barrel, up 0.5%, or 42 cents on the day.

Gold prices rose on raised expectations for U.S. interest rate cuts, while investors waited for Thursday's inflation data with a view to bolstering those expectations.

Spot gold added 0.36% to $2,372.25 an ounce. U.S. gold futures gained 0.72% to $2,377.00 an ounce.[GOL/]

(Reporting by Sinéad Carew, Karen Brettell, Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York, Lawrence White in London, Rae Wee in Singapore and Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru, Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Heinrich, Nick Zieminski and Aurora Ellis)

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