LONDON – World shares consolidated a 6-week high on Thursday as investors scented a possible slowdown in the pace of US rate hikes that had comforted bond markets and sent the dollar to a three-week low on the yen.
Europe made an upbeat start as record-busting $11.5 billion profits from oil giant Shell sent commodities shares soaring, although momentum quickly faded ahead of what was expected to be some shaky euro zone confidence data later.
The US Federal Reserve had surprised no one by lifting rates 75 basis points (bps) to 2.25-2.50 percent on Wednesday, but did alter its statement to cite some softening in recent data.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell sounded suitably hawkish on curbing inflation in his news conference, but also dropped guidance on the size of the next rate rise and noted that "at some point" it would be appropriate to slow down.
"There is pretty convincing risk-on reaction from the market to the Fed, but whether that can continue remains to be seen," said Abrdn investment director James Athey.
The reality was, he added, that if the US central bank does slow its rate hikes it would only be because the economy was struggling, which would not be a good sign.
"The bias is we don't see much more on the upside (in share markets) given that there is recessionary outlook," Athey said. "Everybody is somewhere on the spectrum."
The futures market still has 100 bps of further tightening priced in by year-end, but also implies around 50 bps of rate cuts over 2023.
Just the hint of a less aggressive Fed though had been enough to send MSCI's 47-country index of world shares up 0.4 percent, putting it firmly on course for its first back-to-back run of weekly gains since March.
With Europe now facing a gas crisis, and increasingly likely a recession according to economists, the STOXX 600 stalled after rising as much as 0.5 percent. The FTSE and DAX both slipped into the red although Italy's FTSE MIB remained 1 percent higher.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei had added 0.4 percent despite a jump from the yen. South Korea climbed 0.8 percent.
Wall Street also looked set to take a post-Fed breather, with S&P 500 futures 0.2 percent lower and Nasdaq futures down 0.5 percent, after the tech-heavy index had enjoyed its biggest daily gain since April 2020 on Wednesday.
Yet shares of several major US tech companies, including Meta Platforms, slid after hours as poor quarterly results and outlooks underscored recession fears.
Traders will be feverishly awaiting results from iPhone maker Apple and Amazon later following torrid runs for their stock prices this year.
Attention will also be on US gross domestic product (GDP) data for the second quarter where another negative reading would meet the technical definition of a recession, though the United States has its own method of deciding those.
Median forecasts are for growth of 0.5 percent, but the closely watched Atlanta Fed estimate of GDP is for a fall of 1.2 percent.
In bond markets, two-year Treasury yields steadied at 3.00 percent after falling 6 bps in the wake of the Fed meeting.
Although the US yield curve steepened slightly, most of it remained inverted in a sign investors believe policy tightening will lead to an economic downturn and lower inflation.
Europe's benchmark 10-year German bund yield climbed 5 basis points in morning trading which left it on the cusp of 1 percent again.
"While central banks are still on track to continue tightening this year, it is increasingly likely that the most rapid pace of rate hikes may be behind us," analysts at JPMorgan said in a note.
Others are not so sure. Flavio Carpenzano investment director at Capital Group, which manages $2.6 trillion worth of assets, said 9 percent inflation in the US would remain the main concern for the Fed.
"Combining this with a labour market that remains very tight, it's difficult to envisage the Fed can slow or justify a slower hiking pace."
In currencies, the dollar index eased a fraction to 106.260 after losing 0.7 percent overnight as risk sentiment improved.
It also suffered a rare setback on the Japanese yen, falling 0.7 percent to 135.56 as some investors decided to book profits on a host of long positions.
The euro hovered around $1.0204, having bounced 0.9 percent overnight, but faces stiff resistance at $1.0278.
The single currency still has an energy crisis to contend with as the IMF warned that a complete cut-off of Russian gas to Europe by year-end may lead to virtually zero economic growth next year.
Russia has delivered less gas to Europe this week and warned of further cuts to come, boosting prices for gas and oil globally. A drop in crude inventories and a rebound in gasoline demand in the United States also supported prices.
Brent rose another $1.40 to $108 a barrel, having bounced 2 percent overnight, while US crude gained $1.50 to $98.73.
Spot gold was 0.6 percent firmer at $1,744 an ounce, having benefited from the dip in the dollar and bond yields.