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European stocks soft as US futures stall

Wednesday 08:30 GMT

Overview

European stocks and US index futures are lacking momentum, while government bond yields see minimal moves, as traders appear wary of making bold bets ahead of a press conference later in the day from US president-elect Donald Trump.

The dollar is steady against the euro but the Turkish lira has hit another record low. Industrial commodity prices mostly are holding recent gains.

Hot topic

Metal prices are on a good run, underpinned by hopes for sturdy demand amid expectations of a US infrastructure boost and after data showing stronger-than-expected China producer price inflation.

Copper on Tuesday hit a three-month high and China-traded iron ore futures are up nearly 10 per cent already this week.

With gold also on the front foot of late, global mining stocks have jumped. And that trend, along with the pound flirting with 31-year lows versus the dollar, has been an important cause of London’s FTSE 100 delivering a record breaking rally.

On Tuesday, the Footsie closed at a peak of 7,275.5, having secured fresh highs for nine days in a row. However, the bounce left the benchmark with a 14-day relative strength index, a closely watched momentum gauge, of 80.9. That’s well above the “overbought” threshold of 70, an indicator that may make some more technically-minded traders a bit nervous.

The new session sees the Footsie give back just 0.2 per cent.

What to watch

Highlight of the trading day is likely to be Donald Trump’s press conference, due to start at 1600 GMT.

Investors will be keen to hear what he has to say about his plans for tax reform, trade, international relationships and a mooted infrastructure boost.

The Mexican peso will be in the spotlight should Mr Trump expand on the US’s trade relationship with its southern neighbour.

The peso early on Wednesday hit a fresh record intraday low of 21.8450 per dollar as Mr Trump’s protectionist policies are considered harmful to Mexico’s economy. The peso has recovered a bit to trade 0.2 per cent stronger on the session at 21.7529.

Forex

Another currency under the cosh is the Turkish lira, which is down 1.9 per cent to a record low of 3.8570 versus the buck as investors continue to fret over the country’s economic and political outlook.

Other major forex pairs are fairly steady. The dollar index is unchanged at 102.01, holding less than 2 per cent shy of the 14-year high touched last week, as the euro adds just 9 pips to $1.0562.

Sterling is down only 0.1 per cent to $1.2163 ahead of Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s appearance before a parliamentary committee on Wednesday. The Japanese yen is 0.1 per cent softer at ‎¥‎115.88 per dollar.

Equities

Moves are mild ahead of the Trump press conference. and as investors await a bunch of US bank earnings reports later in the week.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 is down 0.2 per cent as energy shares underperform, while US index futures suggest the S&P 500 will dip 3 points to 2,266.

In Asia, Japan’s Topix gained 0.5 per cent as a weakening yen took some pressure off exporters.

Greater China bourses were mixed, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng adding 0.8 per cent but the mainland’s Shanghai Composite down 0.8 per cent, as investors worried that a rush of IPO approvals would increase equity supply.

Commodities

Brent crude, the international benchmark, is up 0.3 per cent to $53.81 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate is gaining 0.3 per cent to $50.97.

Prices fell a cumulative 6.1 per cent over the previous two sessions as investors worried that a rising US rig count could offset imminent production cuts by Opec and other major producers.

Gold is up $2.5 to $1,190 an ounce, after notching a back-to-back rise on Tuesday and enjoying solid gains over the past fortnight.

Fixed income

Action is muted, in keeping with the broader market’s tentative tone.

The 10-year Treasury yield, which moves inversely to the bond price, is up one basis point to 2.38 per cent.

Equivalent maturity German Bunds are retreating by a fraction of a basis point to 0.28 per cent.

Additional reporting by Peter Wells in Hong Kong

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