Skip to main content
Best News Website or Mobile Service
WAN-IFRA Digital Media Awards Worldwide
Best News Website or Mobile Service
Digital Media Awards Worldwide
Hamburger Menu




Stocks, bond yields fall as Fed, with eye on inflation, signals pause

NEW YORK: US stocks fell from near two-week highs on Wednesday (Mar 22) after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell re-stated his commitment to curb inflation even as the Fed signalled it might soon pause future interest rate hikes amid recent turmoil in financial markets.

As expected by many investors, the Fed raised interest rates by 25 basis points, and omitted from saying in its latest policy statement that "ongoing increase" in rates will likely be appropriate.

Markets initially interpreted the omission as a sign that rates might be peaking, and drove Treasury yields to session lows after the Fed's statement was released.

However, in his press conference, Powell reiterated his desire to tame inflation by saying that the Fed will do "enough" to bring inflation down to 2 per cent, and that it will raise rates higher if it needs to.

The hawkish note drove US stocks lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.63 per cent, the S&P 500 dropped 1.64 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index pulled back to end down 1.6 per cent.

"Should the stresses in the financial system be reduced in short order, we cannot rule out that stronger macro data will lead the Fed to put in additional rate hikes beyond May," said Michael Gapen, an economist at Bank of America Securities.

"But for now, we think that risks are in the direction of an earlier end to the tightening cycle."

Treasury investors appeared to agree.

The two-year yield, which falls with traders' expectations of a less hawkish Fed, fell to 3.9597 per cent from Tuesday's close of 4.177 per cent. The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes retreated to 3.4509 per cent from Tuesday's 3.606 per cent.

Global markets have been thrown into chaos in the past two weeks after the sudden failures of US lenders Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, and an emergency sale of beleaguered Swiss banking behemoth Credit Suisse.

Efforts by regulators and policymakers globally to counter the convulsions in the banking sector have helped stem contagion and a rout in equity markets, though many investors fear other smaller lenders could be next in line to fail as credit markets tighten.


The Fed's signal that it might pause its policy-tightening cycle comes as price pressures remain stubborn despite months of rate rises.

Data also showed British inflation unexpectedly rose to 10.4 per cent in February, lifting expectations for a quarter point rate hike at Thursday's Bank of England meeting, boosting sterling.

European bonds have gone along for the ride. German two-year yields overnight recorded the biggest daily jump since 2008 as markets went back to pricing in more ECB hikes.

The euro meanwhile touched a near seven-week high at US$1.0940 , while sterling rose as much as 0.5 per cent to US$1.2274 after the British inflation data.

The dollar index fell on the Fed's dovish note, shedding 0.62 per cent, and a softer dollar lifted the yen to 131.39.


Markets, unnerved by the banking sector turmoil, remained alert to signs of stress elsewhere.

The upheaval sparked by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank is not yet over, and a significant number of banks will fail within two years, hedge fund Man Group CEO Luke Ellis said at a conference in London on Wednesday.

"I think we will have significantly more banks that don't exist in 12-24 months," Ellis said, adding that he thought smaller and regional banks in the United States and challenger banks in Britain could be at risk.

First Republic Bank was also in focus after efforts to secure a capital infusion continued without success on Tuesday. The stock shed 15.5 per cent late on Wednesday after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said there is no discussion to insure all deposits.

"The banking crisis is creating tighter credit conditions, and if you tighten conditions you weaken economic activity which puts more pressure on the banking sector," said Savary at Prime Partners. "I don't consider the banking crisis is over."

A softer dollar also buoyed oil prices. Brent crude rose US$1.37, or 1.8 per cent, to settle at US$76.69 a barrel, while US crude ended US$1.23, or 1.8 per cent, higher at US$70.90.

Gold, which has benefited from safe-haven funds seeking a refuge from the banking crisis, jumped on Wednesday as some investors took note of the Fed's signal that rates might be peaking for now. Gold does well in a lower-rate environment as it yields no interest.

Spot gold prices rose 1.41 per cent to US$1,967.53 an ounce.

Source: Reuters


Also worth reading