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European markets nudge higher as investors await more U.S. inflation data

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European stocks inched higher on Monday morning as global markets await key U.S. inflation data this week and more comment from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on interest rate hikes.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 added 0.2% in early deals, with travel and leisure stocks climbing 1.1% to lead gains as most sectors and major bourses entered positive territory.

Global markets have a busy week ahead with the latest U.S. inflation data a key data point this week. The U.S. consumer price index is set for release Wednesday and the producer price index is slated for Thursday.

Consumer prices have jumped in Europe and the U.S. over recent months. Last Friday, inflation in the euro zone hit a new record high in December coming in at 5% compared with the same month last year.

In addition, investors will be looking out for more comments on the timing of forthcoming interest rate rises from Powell, as the Fed chair is scheduled to testify Tuesday at his nomination hearing before a Senate panel.

The Fed has signaled it could dial back its easy monetary policy more aggressively than some expected. Minutes from the Fed’s December meeting released last Wednesday showed the central bank is planning to shrink its balance sheet in addition to hiking rates.

Markets will be keeping an eye on security talks between U.S. and Russian diplomats in Geneva on Monday that are aimed at de-escalating tensions over Ukraine.

On the data front in Europe on Monday, the euro zone releases its latest unemployment figures for November, the Netherlands’ publishes manufacturing output data for November and Italy releases its industrial sales figures for the same month.

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BUSINESS

Wall Street caps worst week since start of coronavirus pandemic

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Stocks fell, capping the worst week since the outbreak of the pandemic roiled markets, with tech shares bearing the brunt of the selloff amid shaky company earnings and prospects for higher U.S. interest rates.

The S&P 500 closed below its 200-day moving average, a key technical level, for the first time since 2020. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 slid the most among major benchmarks Friday, led by a more than 20% plunge in shares of streaming giant Netflix Inc. Bitcoin tumbled in an extended selloff for cryptocurrencies, briefly falling below $38,000 to its lowest level in more than five months.

Volatility that has gripped markets this month showed little sign of letting up Friday, with the S&P 500 falling for a fourth day, extending losses in the period to 5.7% for the worst, albeit shortened, week since March 2020. Option expirations of more than $3 trillion helped add to market turbulence.

“This is the longest short week, I think, in history, right?” Jay Pelosky, founder and president of TPW Investment Management, said on Bloomberg TV. “It’s only been a four-day week and it feels like it’s been two weeks rolled into one.”

The U.S. company reporting season so far has been uneven, highlighting the risk that it may fail to enliven animal spirits in the stock market. While Netflix’s disappointing subscriber outlook sent its shares tumbling, while Peloton Interactive Inc. suggested it was poised to rebound after the darling of the stay-at-home trade was hit by a report of temporary production halts.

Markets are also bracing for rate liftoff by the Federal Reserve. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect policy makers to raise interest rates in March for the first time in more than three years and shrink their balance sheet soon after. Geopolitical tensions are also adding to the jitters. A report that Washington is allowing some Baltic states to send U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine stoked concerns about a standoff with Russia.

“There are plenty of risks in the global economy, including geo-political events,” wrote Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Global Research. “However, in our view, the biggest near-term risk is right in front of us: that the Fed is seriously behind the curve and has to get serious about fighting inflation.”

Demand for havens pushed the 10-year Treasury yield down more than 10 basis points in three days to 1.76%, leaving the rate lower on the week, the first decline for the period in five weeks.

The selloff in equity markets has volatility indexes pricing more turbulence near term than in the future. The setup, known as an inverted VIX. Such an inverted curve has occurred four other times in the past year and all coincided with market bottoms.

“We’re all going to breathe an extra sigh of relief once this session finally closes and then we can put an end to this week, because it’s been painful all around,” said Adam Phillips, managing director of Portfolio Strategy at EP Wealth Advisors in Torrance, California.

Some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 fell 1.9% as of 4 p.m. New York time
  • The Nasdaq 100 fell 2.7%
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.3%
  • The MSCI World index fell 1.8%

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.1%
  • The euro rose 0.3% to $1.1345
  • The British pound fell 0.3% to $1.3557
  • The Japanese yen rose 0.4% to 113.68 per dollar

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries declined five basis points to 1.76%
  • Germany’s 10-year yield declined four basis points to -0.06%
  • Britain’s 10-year yield declined five basis points to 1.17%

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.7% to $84.91 a barrel
  • Gold futures fell 0.7% to $1,832.70 an ounce

SOURCE: BLOOMBERG

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Bitcoin falls another 8% as cryptocurrencies extend steep losses

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Cryptocurrencies continued their dramatic slide on Saturday, with bitcoin losing nearly half of its value since hitting its November high.

Bitcoin, the world’s most valuable cryptocurrency by market value, tumbled about 8% on Saturday to trade just above $35,000. The coin hit a record high of $69,000 in November.

Meantime, ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, sank nearly 10% to trade around $2,400.

The losses came on the heels of a Thursday dip in the stock market. Cryptocurrencies and traditional stocks have been falling in tandem this month, with investors concerned about how anticipated Federal Reserve interest-rate increases will affect the market.

A common investment case for bitcoin is that it serves as a hedge against rising inflation as a result of government stimulus, but analysts are saying the risk is that a more hawkish Fed may take the wind out of the crypto market’s sails.

There’s also concern U.S. regulators will further crack down on digital currencies.

Russia’s central bank proposed banning the use and mining of cryptocurrencies earlier in the week. Officials argued it posed threats to financial stability, citizens’ wellbeing and its monetary policy sovereignty. U.S. authorities have also been clamping down on certain aspects of the market.

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Cryptocurrencies tumble, with bitcoin falling 8% and ether down 9% in the last 24 hours

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Bitcoin prices fell sharply on Thursday night, while ether prices also dived.

Bitcoin plummeted by 8% in the last 24 hours, and trading at $38,524 as of 10:56 p.m. ET, according to CoinDesk data.

Ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, dived more than 9%. It was trading at $2,828 as of 10:57 p.m. ET, according to CoinDesk.

The declines in cryptocurrencies follow Wall Street losses on Thursday. The Nasdaq was down almost 5% this week, and the S&P 500 is into its third straight week of losses.

As the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield spiked earlier this week, rising rates have caused investors to shed their positions in riskier assets. The Federal Reserve have also indicated it plans to begin reducing its balance sheet, as well as tapering of bonds and raising interest rates.

A common investment case for bitcoin is that it serves as a hedge against rising inflation as a result of government stimulus, but analysts are saying the risk is that a more hawkish Federal Reserve may take the wind out of bitcoin’s sails.

Bitcoin prices have fallen sharply since November, tumbling over 40% from a high of over $67,500 in 2021.

Some experts warn that the crypto market could be heading toward a downturn soon, as heightened regulatory scrutiny and intense price fluctuations dampened bitcoin’s prospects.

Regulators are cracking down on cryptocurrencies too. China completely banning all crypto-related activities and U.S. authorities are also clamping down on certain aspects of the market.

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