Stocks post gains, dollar strengthens after Fed flags taper soon

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – A gauge of global stock markets ended solidly higher and the U.S. dollar strengthened on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve cleared the way for the central bank to reduce its monthly bond purchases soon, while easing market jitters around property developer China Evergrande helped risk appetite.

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Wall Street’s main indexes ended up about 1%, although asset price moves were volatile in the wake of the Fed’s latest policy statement, in which the central bank also signaled interest rate increases may follow more quickly than expected.

“The policy of the Fed, which is I think favorable for U.S. equities, remains reasonably unchanged,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

“When you look at how low rates have remained, and the fact that even if the Fed begins to moderately taper, it’s going to be a long process to return to historic real rates.”

U.S. equity indexes ended at about the same level they were at before the Fed announcement. Stocks had been stronger earlier in the session after Evergrande agreed to settle interest payments on a domestic bond, while the Chinese central bank injected cash into the banking system. The developments soothed fears of imminent contagion from the debt-laden property developer that had pressured equities and other riskier assets at the start of the week.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.73%, bouncing back for a second day after it logged its biggest one-day percentage drop in two months on Monday.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 338.48 points, or 1%, to 34,258.32, the S&P 500 gained 41.45 points, or 0.95%, to 4,395.64 and the Nasdaq Composite added 150.45 points, or 1.02%, to 14,896.85.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.99%.

In a week filled with central bank meetings, investors have been focused on the Fed to see when the central bank will start pulling back on its monetary stimulus put in place during the pandemic.

In currency trading, the dollar index rose 0.238%, with the euro down 0.27% to $1.1691. The Japanese yen weakened 0.50% versus the greenback at 109.78 per dollar.

“Very mixed signals from the Fed, resulting in the dollar’s choppy performance,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington. “Once the dust settles it seems that there are enough hawkish signals to keep the dollar biased higher, as the market pencils in a sooner-than-expected rate hike.”

Benchmark U.S. 10-year notes last rose 6/32 in price to yield 1.3057%, from 1.324% late on Tuesday.

Oil prices climbed after U.S. crude stocks fell to their lowest levels in three years as refining activity recovered from recent storms.

U.S. crude settled up 2.5% at $72.23 per barrel and Brent settled at $76.19, up 2.5% on the day.

Spot gold dropped 0.4% to $1,766.76 an ounce.

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