European Shares Dip Ahead of Fed Minutes

Published August 21, 2013

| Reuters

European shares hovered near three-week lows on Wednesday while the dollar found some support as investors braced for a U.S. Federal Reserve report which may shed light on when it will trim its stimulus policy.

Emerging market currencies remained under pressure from expectations that the minutes from the Fed's last policy meeting in July, due out later, will signal an early end to the supply of cheap dollars they have relied on.

"I don't think we're going to get that clear signal as to whether September is when they pull the trigger on tapering, but that is what the markets are hoping for," said Daragh Maher, FX strategist at HSBC.

European shares had edged down 0.2 in early deals after a 0.8 percent fall in the previous session, following on from a weaker session in Asia where MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.3 percent.

Reports that Japan's government would raise the severity of the latest leak at Fukushima to a level 3 event, or a serious radiation incident, had also sent shivers through stocks there.

However, in Japan the Nikkei had recouped all its losses and ended 0.2 percent higher, as investors drew support from a declaration by Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda that he would not hesitate to expand the bank's massive asset buying campaign if the economic outlook darkened.

Among the major currencies - where safe-haven flows ahead of the Fed minutes have tended to favour the yen and Swiss franc - the greenback had recovered slightly, gaining 0.2 percent against a basket of currencies to move away from a two-month low.

The euro had eased 0.2 percent against the dollar to $1.3390 , having touched a six-month high of $1.3452 on Tuesday. Traders have cited European investors repatriating funds from emerging markets as one reason the single currency euro had spiked.

In the fixed income markets, benchmark 10-year Treasury yields edged back to 2.82 percent but analysts are worried the Fed minutes could jolt them higher again. A break past a major chart level at 2.90 percent would be especially bearish.

"The minutes should continue to reinforce this theme of tapering at the September meeting as long as the labour market holds up," said Michelle Girard, chief U.S. economist at RBS.

"Along with that theme, they should also repeat another tune dear to FOMC hearts, 'tapering is not tightening.'"

German bond yields were holding within tight ranges ahead of the release of the minutes with investor attention focused on a two-year bond auction which was seen garnering good demand.

"We do not expect much new guidance from the minutes so the risk is that we see a bit lower yields in U.S. Treasuries and Bunds," said DZ Bank strategist Christian Lenk.

The widespread conviction that the Fed will have to start tapering at some point was still having a major effect on emerging market currencies.

The Turkish lira fell to record lows on Wednesday, with investors brushing aside central bank efforts to shore up the currency.

The Indian rupee had cratered to a record low of 64.13 per dollar on Tuesday, before steadying at 63.3 on Wednesday. Indonesia's rupiah was at its lowest since 2009.

Late on Tuesday, India's central bank took steps to support the beaten-down bond market, a move that did work to bring yields and market interest rates down sharply.

Commodities markets were generally softer as the Fed loomed large. Copper futures dipped 0.4 percent to $7,292.75 a tonne, while spot gold inched down to $1,366.80, and away from a two-month high set on Monday.

Brent crude prices eased 53 cents to $109.62 a barrel, while U.S. oil for October delivery lost 47 cents to $104.64.

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