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● Markets again cautious ahead of delayed US healthcare vote
● Dollar recovers some ground and Treasury yields nudge higher
● S&P 500 futures firm and European equities soft after positive Asian session
● Yen and gold retreat in sign of waning haven demand
● Oil prices rise leaving Brent crude above $50 a barrel
Dealers may be addressing their screens with a sense of deja vu as they face another session waiting to see if US lawmakers will pass a new healthcare bill.
Markets suffered a wobble midweek — with Wall Street stocks having their worst session in several months — as investors began to fret that divisions within the US Republican party over Donald Trump’s plans to repeal Obamacare meant the president might struggle to get his other pro-business policies passed.
The healthcare vote was due to take place on Thursday but is now expected later on Friday, with Mr Trump issuing an ultimatum to House Republicans that they either pass the bill overhauling the nation’s healthcare system or reject it and he will move on to the rest of his legislative agenda.
Some analysts are worried that because the stock market had rallied sharply following Mr Trump’s election on hopes he can get economy-boosting tax cuts and infrastructure plans passed in Washington, any sense that such policies may be delayed will trigger a paring of bullish bets.
Others are more sanguine, arguing that even if healthcare can’t be sorted out quickly, any signs of progress in tax reform is more important to equity valuations and will soon reignite investors’ animal spirits.
The dollar is firmer after its recent sell-off. The Dollar index (DXY) fell on Wednesday to a six-week low of 99.55 amid heighten concerns about the Trump agenda, but is adding 0.1 per cent to 99.90 in the current session.
The euro is easing 0.1 per cent to $1.0769 and the British pound, which had been boosted this week by stronger than expected inflation and retail sales data, is slipping 0.3 per cent to $1.2486.
The yen is 0.3 per cent weaker at ¥111.29 after a survey of manufacturing activity fell in March to its lowest point this year. The Japanese currency on Thursday had strengthened for an eighth straight day — the longest winning streak since early 2011 as it was the main beneficiary of “haven” flows amid greenback selling.