Stock markets mostly retreated Thursday on the eve of US jobs data, which is being eagerly awaited in light of warnings from Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell that interest rate hikes could be ramped up should the economy show no sign of slowing.
Growing concerns about rising rates causing a possible recession were keeping pressure on oil prices, which were steady.
European gas prices meanwhile struck 19-month lows, also thanks to strengthened supplies.
The focus for the rest of the week “will be the February payrolls report”, noted Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK. “In the space of a month, we’ve gone from a narrative that had rate cuts coming before the end of the year, to an imminent pause in the next couple of months, to how many more rate hikes can we now expect?”
In the space of a month, we’ve gone from a narrative that had rate cuts coming before the end of the year, to an imminent pause in the next couple of months, to how many more rate hikes can we now expect?– Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK
Friday sees also a key meeting of the Bank of Japan. The “BoJ will meet for the last time under Governor Haruhiko Kuroda amid increasing speculation of a ‘legacy’ change to policy”, said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management. The central bank’s longest-serving leader, Kuroda became governor in 2013 and his attempts to boost Japan’s moribund economy have ranged from a negative interest rate to spending vast sums on government bonds. In the past year, he has held firm, even as other central banks hiked rates to tackle inflation, with the resulting policy gap causing the yen to slump against the dollar.
The yen on Thursday rebounded against the US unit, which was down also versus the euro and pound.
Elsewhere, European wholesale natural gas prices dived to the lowest level since August 2021, as high storage levels eclipsed the impact of colder weather. The benchmark European contract — Dutch TTF gas futures for the coming month — dropped to €40.50 per megawatt hour following heavy falls in recent months. It later clawed back some ground to trade above €41.
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