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Global stocks inch lower, dollar firm as Fed focus intensifies; crypto soars

Asian stocks drifted lower while the dollar held firm on Tuesday as investors awaited minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting to gauge the timing and extent of possible interest rate cuts this year.

Japan’s tech-heavy Nikkei edged higher though, driven by chip shares after the Nasdaq hit a record high overnight ahead of Nvidia earnings due on Wednesday.

Gold inched back towards Monday’s all-time peak, while crude oil prices eased on worries of U.S. interest rates staying high for longer as Fed officials maintained a cautious view on a recent easing of inflation.

Cryptocurrencies ether and bitcoin climbed to new six-week highs amid speculation that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may approve a spot ether exchange-traded fund (ETF).

Markets currently factor in about 41 basis points of Fed rate reductions this year, with a quarter-point cut fully priced in for November. 

Traders rushed to rebuild easing bets after data earlier this month showed consumer price pressures mitigated in April, following a string of three months of upside surprises at the start of the year.

Even so, Fed officials are reluctant to declare inflation is coming under control, with Vice Chair Philip Jefferson saying on Monday that it was too early to tell if the slowdown is “long lasting,” and Vice Chair Michael Barr saying restrictive policy needs more time.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.6%, weighed down by the Hang Seng’s more than 1% pullback from Monday’s multi-month peak.

Japan’s Nikkei was a rare bright spot, rising 0.2%, adding to the previous day’s 0.73% rally.

Nasdaq futures inched 0.1% lower after the cash index climbed 0.65% overnight to close at an all-time high. S&P 500 futures were flat after Monday’s 0.1% gain.

“Market sentiment remains relatively robust, with implied volatility low, supported by greater confidence in U.S. rate cuts this year,” Kyle Rodda, senior markets analyst at Capital.com, wrote in a note.

At the same time, record highs for metals such as gold and copper “is being pointed to as a signal economic activity is improving globally, and that may be a factor keeping inflation sticky,” Rodda said.

Gold eased 0.2% to about $2,420 per ounce, after pushing to the cusp of $2,450 for the first time overnight.

The dollar firmed slightly against major peers on Tuesday, with the dollar index up 0.1% to 104.69 after a similar rise on Monday.

Brent crude futures declined 12 cents, or 0.1%, to $83.34 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) eased 8 cents, or 0.1%, to $79.72 a barrel.

Meanwhile, the standout performers of Monday continued their rise, as traders snapped up cryptocurrencies following a report that the SEC had abruptly asked exchanges that want to trade ether ETFs to update regulatory filings, boosting bets that approval could come this week.

Bitcoin climbed as high as $71,957 and ether jumped to $3,720.80, both hitting levels not seen since April 9.

“Speculation around the ether ETF has certainly played its part in the move, throwing fuel on the crypto bull market bonfire that had reignited after last week’s cooler U.S. CPI data,” said IG analyst Tony Sycamore.

Sycamore expects bitcoin to retest the all-time high at $73,803.25 in coming days before making a push for $80,000.

(Reuters)

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