Stocks steady, dollar chips into pound

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European stocks and US equity futures are putting in a steady performance after a soft start to the week. In currencies, sterling is the key faller while the dollar is generally well-supported by expectations for an interest rate rise later this month.

Hot topic
The dollar and US short-term bond yields are holding just shy of multiyear highs as the market continues to discount an interest rate rise by the Federal Reserve next week.

While the buck is steady against some key currencies including the euro and the yen, it is pushing higher against sterling, which is hovering just above $1.22 ahead of a key House of Lords debate on the Brexit process today and the Budget tomorrow.

Futures suggest there is an 84.1 per cent chance the US central bank will increase borrowing costs on March 15 by 25 basis points to 0.75-1.0 per cent, according to the CME’s FedWatch tool.

Unless Friday’s monthly US jobs report is shockingly poor, then a move in several days time by chair Janet Yellen and colleagues thus is considered a given.

Attention is now turning to when the next rate rise may come. The June Fed policy meeting is seen offering a 40 per cent chance of another 25bp hike — a lack of conviction among investors that has stalled the recent rises in the greenback and US sovereign debt yields.

The dollar index, which measures the buck against a basket of its peers, and which hit 14-year high of 103.82 at the start of 2017, is barely changed for the day at 101.60.

Equities
After a mild pullback in recent sessions, many major bourses are more stoic on Tuesday.

US index futures suggest the S&P 500, which closed on March 1 at a record 2,396 as hopes revived that president Trump’s policies would add extra propulsion to US growth, is due to open little changed at 2,374.5 when trading gets under way in New York.

Wall Street had pared Monday’s losses and this revival is supporting Europe, where the Stoxx 600 is off just 0.1 per cent. London’s FTSE 100 is a fraction stronger as miners recover some of the previous day’s retreat.

Japan’s Topix index was flat as Nintendo was a bright spot with its shares climbing 2 per cent, for a third straight day of gains following Friday’s launch of the new Switch console.

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