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NEWS

Stocks subdued, yen in focus, with inflation data on tap

By Lewis Krauskopf and Amanda Cooper

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) -A gauge of global share markets was barely changed on Thursday as it was poised to end the quarter with solid gains, while a strong dollar kept the yen near its weakest in decades amid the threat of intervention from Japanese authorities.

Wall Street’s main stock indexes finished the session with minimal changes as markets broadly were largely rangebound ahead of Friday’s much-anticipated U.S. personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index data, a closely watched inflation measure. Few markets will be open to assess and respond to the fresh data, however, given the long Easter weekend in many countries.

“People are probably a little cautious about positioning ahead of PCE,” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

“For a lot of people today will be the last day of the week, they are probably squaring positions for the quarter, for the month.”

Heightened focus was on the yen, which last weakened 0.05% against the greenback at 151.38 per dollar, having slid to a 34-year low of 151.975 in the previous session.

Japan’s three main monetary authorities held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the weak yen, and suggested they were ready to intervene in the market to stop what they described as disorderly and speculative moves in the currency.

“Once dollar/yen touches 152, I think there will probably be a sharp move upward, and that’s when intervention could take place,” said Takeshi Ishida, a currency strategist at Resona Holdings.

The dollar gained on the euro after a U.S. Federal Reserve policymaker said he wasn’t in a hurry to cut rates.

Fed Governor Christopher Waller said on Wednesday that recent disappointing inflation data affirms the case for the central bank to hold off on cutting its short-term interest rate target, but he did not rule out trimming rates later in the year.

The dollar index gained 0.12% at 104.55, with the euro down 0.37% at $1.0786.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe fell 0.01 points, or basically no change, to 782.93. The index was set to post a gain of over 7% for the first quarter.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 47.29 points, or 0.12%, to 39,807.37, the S&P 500 gained 5.86 points, or 0.11%, to 5,254.35 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 20.06 points, or 0.12%, to 16,379.46. Data on Thursday showed the U.S. economy grew faster than previously estimated in the fourth quarter, lifted by strong consumer spending and business investment in nonresidential structures like factories. Gross domestic product increased at a 3.4% annualized rate last quarter, revised up from the previously reported 3.2% pace.

U.S. Treasury yields were slightly firmer on the day ahead of the inflation data.

The yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year notes rose to 4.206%, from 4.196% late on Wednesday.

Oil prices rose, closing out the month higher on the prospect of OPEC+ staying the course on production cuts, ongoing attacks on Russia’s energy infrastructure and a falling U.S. rig count tightening crude supplies.

U.S. crude gained 2.04% to $83.01 a barrel and Brent rose to $87.5 per barrel, up 1.64% on the day.

(Additional reporting by Alun John in London; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Nick Zieminski and Deepa Babington)

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