LONDON – Stocks markets were subdued on Friday after prolonged pressure, with investors watching the contrasting fortunes of the dollar and yuan, and mulling central bank meetings and U.S. data on the horizon.
U.S. stock index futures were little changed.
The tech sector was in focus after about $200 billion was wiped from Apple’s market capitalisation in two days on reports of China curbing iPhone use by state employees and on Friday protectionism fears were weighing on shares of suppliers.
Apple shares were flat in pre-market trading on Friday.
Oil prices hovered above $90 a barrel, helped by tighter supply.
The dollar was set to clock up its best winning streak since 2014, bolstered by a resilient run of U.S. economic data. In contrast, the yuan fell to its weakest level since 2007 on worries about China’s slowing economy.
Investors were focused in upcoming central bank meetings this month and next batch of U.S. data.
“Everything is geared towards the next couple of weeks, with European Central Bank, Federal Reserve and Bank of England meeting. I think they will all sit on their hands,” said Mike Hewson, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
Robust economic data in the United States this week have left some investors worried that even if the Fed leaves rates unchanged this month, they could remain high for longer than anticipated.
The U.S. Consumer Price Index reading for August is due on Sept. 13 ahead of the Fed’s next meeting in the following week.
Stocks sought to stabilise after a week of easing, with the MSCI All Country stock index slightly weaker at 676.83 points, and down about 1.5% for the week so far, though still up nearly 12% for the year.
In Europe, the STOXX index of 600 companies eased 0.3% and heading for a loss of about 1% for the week, and on course for its longest run of losses since November 2016.
Patrick Spencer, vice chair of equities at Baird, said investors were trying to guess at what pace the Fed could begin cutting interest rates next year.
“Maybe you are going to see slightly higher for longer rates and they may not come down as quickly next year, and that in itself will slow consumption and consumer confidence,” Spencer said, adding that a U.S. government shutdown is also a worry.
YUAN AT 16-YEAR LOW
Dollar gains have pushed the Chinese yuan to a 16-year low and have also prompted a step up in rhetoric from Japanese policymakers growing uncomfortable with the yen’s slide.
“Given challenges facing China, and more signs of a re-tightening of the U.S. jobs market, it is not surprising that the dollar is finding support, allowing the ‘dollar juggernaut’ to continue its rampaging run,” analysts at ANZ Bank said in a note.
The yen has found new 10-month lows and, at 147.45 per dollar is heading towards the vicinity of 150, where traders see high risks of authorities stepping in with support.
Japan’s top currency diplomat Masato Kanda said on Wednesday that authorities will not rule out any option to clamp down on “speculative” moves, while chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government was watching with “urgency”.
In currencies, the euro is down 0.5% this week and traded little changed on the day at $1.07045
Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields were trading at 4.2621%, while two-year yields were trading at 4.9549%, also little changed on the day.
Brent crude prices are up this week, but gains on recently robust U.S. data have been tempered by softening indicators of demand in Europe and China.
Brent futures up 0.7% at $90.58 a barrel.
(Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang in Seoul; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Tomasz Janowski and David Evans)