Shares inch higher and oil rises before central bank decisions


By Harry Robertson and Kevin Buckland

LONDON/TOKYO (Reuters) – Global stocks rose slightly on Tuesday while the dollar traded just below its highest in six months as traders avoided big bets ahead of interest rate decisions by the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan in the coming days.

Oil prices continued to push higher, with the international benchmark Brent crude price moving past $95 to its highest since November 2022.

MSCI’s index of global stocks was up just 0.06% after falling 0.24% on Monday. The MSCI Asia index, which excludes Japan, slipped 0.11%.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.13%. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.14% while Germany’s DAX fell 0.06%.

The key event for investors this week is the U.S. Fed’s interest rate decision on Wednesday.

Although the central bank is expected to leave borrowing costs on hold at 5.25% to 5.5%, traders will be on the lookout for clues about how long the Fed is likely to hold rates around current levels. After a strong run of U.S. data, speculation has heightened that the bank could strike a tough tone.

Futures on the U.S. S&P 500 were up 0.11% after the stock index finished a touch higher on Monday. Nasdaq futures were 0.1% higher.

“The whole debate now has moved from where is the peak for rates to how long do you stay at the peak for,” said Duncan MacInnes, investment director at British firm Ruffer.

“Given how the economy continues to surprise with its robustness, given that risk assets in particular have surprised with their robustness, why would you not, if you were in (Fed Chair) Jerome Powell’s shoes, indicate how much you mean it.”

The dollar index, which gauges the currency against six major peers, was last down 0.1% at 104.98, close to Thursday’s six-month high of 105.43.

Investors and central bankers are contending with a sharp rise in oil prices as demand has picked up but Saudi Arabia and Russia have limited supply.

Global oil benchmark Brent crude futures rose to $95.33 a barrel, the highest since November 2022, and were last up 0.56% at $94.97.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up 1.16% to $92.54 after also touching the highest since last November.

Samuel Zief, head of global FX strategy at JPMorgan Private Bank, said central banks should not be overly concerned by the run-up in oil prices, which he said should fade as economies slow.

“What the central banks are really, really focused on, it’s not really the supply-side energy shocks anymore, it’s really the sticky services part of the inflation basket,” he said.

“Pick whatever central bank you want, they’re talking about either they’re done already or they’ll do one more hike and they’ll go on pause.”

The Bank of England sets policy on Thursday and is expected to hike rates by 25 basis points to 5.5%, in what many investors believe will be the last increase of the cycle.

The Bank of Japan is expected to leave rates on hold in negative territory on Friday, although it too will be scrutinised for clues about the outlook after Governor Kazuo Ueda hinted at a move away from ultra-loose policy.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.87% under the weight of big losses for chip-related stocks including Tokyo Electron.

Japanese markets were closed Monday, when Asian tech stocks were sold off following a Reuters report that TSMC had asked its major vendors to delay deliveries.

(Reporting by Harry Robertson in London and Kevin Buckland in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Stephen Coates, Bernadette Baum and Chizu Nomiyama)

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