NEW YORK, Dec 6 — A gauge of global stocks declined for a second straight session and US Treasury yields fell yesterday, as investors attempted to assess the policy path of major central banks and the trajectory of slowing economic growth. Softening economic data and recent comments from Federal Reserve officials, including Chair Jerome Powell, have heightened expectations that the US central bank has ended its interest rate hiking cycle and will begin to cut rates as soon as March. In addition, expectations have grown that the European Central Bank (ECB) could cut rates in the first quarter of 2024. Expectations for a US rate cut of at least 25 basis points (bps) in March are about 64 per cent, according to CME’s FedWatch Tool, up from about 35 per cent a week ago. Markets are pricing in a 74 per cent chance of a cut by the ECB in March, according to LSEG data. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 79.72 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 36,124.72, the S&P 500 lost 2.59 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 4,567.19 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 44.42 points, or 0.31 per cent, to 14,229.91. The Fed’s next policy meeting is on December 12-13. Investors got their first look at what will be a string of data on the labour market this week in the form of the Job Openings and Labour Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, and will culminate in the government’s payrolls report on Friday, which will heavily influence market views on the Fed’s policy steps. US job openings dropped in October to the lowest level since early 2021, indicating that the labour market was easing as higher interest rates cool demand in the economy. “As interest rates rise and as demand slows, companies are pulling back on job openings, which is essentially what the Fed wants,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York. “The Fed probably is done raising rates, and the only question outstanding is when they start to cut,” Stovall said. Other data indicated the US services sector picked up steam in November as business activity increased, although new orders were flat and a gauge of input inflation slipped. US Treasury yields fell, with the benchmark 10-year Treasury note touching its lowest level since September 1 at 4.163 per cent and was last down 11 basis points to 4.174 per cent. The two-year US Treasury yield, which typically moves in step with interest rate expectations, declined 8 basis points to 4.581 per cent on the day. European shares closed higher, and Germany’s DAX climbed 0.8 per cent to close at a fresh record, buoyed by strong gains in Allianz and Daimler Truck Holding, with the STOXX 600 index up 0.4 per cent. MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe lost 0.23 per cent, the first back-to-back declines for the index in five weeks. ECB board member Isabel Schnabel, seen as the most influential voice in the conservative camp of policymakers, told Reuters the ECB can take further interest rate hikes off the table given a “remarkable” fall in inflation and policymakers should not guide for rates to remain steady through mid-2024. The dollar index rose 0.32 per cent at 103.95, while the euro EUR= was down 0.38 per cent to US$1.0795. In commodities, US crude settled 0.99 per cent lower at US$72.32 a barrel while Brent crude settled at US$77.20, down 1.06 per cent in choppy trading, the lowest since July, as the stronger US dollar and demand concerns offset supply worries after Russia said Opec+ was ready to deepen output cuts in the first quarter of next year. — Reuters

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