Worries over economic recovery shake world stocks, dollar gains

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LONDON — World stocks edged away from the previous session’s record highs and European stocks dropped on Wednesday on uncertainty over the pace of economic recovery, while the dollar hit one-week highs as investors reduced exposure to riskier assets.

U.S. S&P futures eased 0.1% after the S&P 500 fell 0.34% on Tuesday.

Accommodative central bank policies and optimism about reopening economies have pushed equities to record highs but concerns are growing about the impact of rising coronavirus infections due to the Delta variant.

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Markets are also still assessing data from last week which showed the U.S. economy created the fewest jobs in seven months in August, and wondering how the U.S. central bank will respond.

The Fed should move forward with a plan to taper its massive asset purchase program despite the slowdown in job growth, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said in an interview with the Financial Times on Wednesday.

“Everything is tapering, tapering, tapering. We are looking at every single central bank – when is the next one?” said Eddie Cheng, head of international multi-asset portfolio management at Wells Fargo Asset Management, though he added: “The Delta variant impact is still running like a wild card.”

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MSCI’s world equity index fell 0.17% after seven consecutive days of gains.

European stocks hit their lowest in nearly three weeks and were down 0.69%. Britain’s FTSE 100 struck two-week lows and were down 0.56%.

“What is likely ahead of us is a continued but temporary deceleration of economic activity of one to three months which likely started in August,” said Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management.

Fed officials John Williams and Robert Kaplan speak later on Wednesday.

In Europe, markets are focused on whether the European Central Bank will this week begin to scale back its bond purchase program.

The dollar hit a one-week high against the single currency and was trading at $1.1819. It also reached a one-week peak against an index of currencies, recovering from recent five-week lows. It was trading at 92.67 on the index, up 0.15%.

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Yields on 10-year Treasury notes fell to 1.3529% compared to a U.S. close of 1.371% on Tuesday, retreating from this week’s eight-week highs. Germany’s 10-year Bund yield also hit eight-week highs before edging lower to -0.331%.

“Fears that central banks might start to taper their asset purchases seems to have knocked away a little confidence, particularly given tomorrow’s ECB decision where many expect we’ll begin to see the start of that process, not least with inflation there running at its highest levels in almost a decade,” Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.45%, having risen in each of the past eight sessions.

Chinese blue chips dropped 0.41%, weighed down by recent soft data in the world’s second-biggest economy.

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But Japan’s Nikkei jumped 0.89% to a five-month high, helped by revised gross domestic product growth figures beating expectations.

Bitcoin paused for breath after plunging 17% on Monday to a low of around $43,000 before recovering. It was last at $46,532, down 0.71%.

U.S. crude oil jumped 1.38% to $69.30 a barrel and Brent crude rose 1.14% to $72.50 per barrel, with prices supported by a slow restart to production in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida hit the region.

Gold gained 0.17% to $1796.90 per ounce in line with the risk-averse mood and just below the psychologically key $1,800 level which it fell through in the previous session.

(Additional reporting by Alun John in Hong Kong; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell & Shri Navaratnam, Editing by William Maclean and Angus MacSwan)

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