World stocks set for fourth month of gains in data-heavy week

Markets in the US and Britain closed for a holiday as Asian shares edge higher

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on  Wall Street.

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street.

 

World equities are set to post a fourth consecutive month of gains on Monday, while the dollar remains under pressure ahead of a slew of European and US data that will confirm whether the global economy is on a steady recovery path.

MSCI’s broadest index of world stocks drifted 0.1 per cent higher, putting the gauge on track for a 1.4 per cent gain for May. It is the longest monthly rising streak for the index since August 2020, when the gauge rose for five consecutive months, according to Refinitiv data.

But US stock futures and European cash equities trading were quiet on Monday due to holidays in the United States and Britain, with benchmark indexes sticking to well-worn ranges.

May has proven to be a decent month for asset markets, but policymakers are increasingly faced with the dilemma that inflation is running above estimates while the underlying structural economy is not improving as quickly.

The main event of the week will be US payrolls on Friday with median forecasts at 650,000 but the outcome is uncertain following April’s shockingly weak 266,000 gain. Although US inflation data last week was above estimates, another big miss on the jobs front would heap pressure on the Fed to postpone plans to wind down on stimulus.

“The question is, therefore, whether by September the Federal Reserve will be in a position to announce a tapering of its bond purchases starting next year, and the odds are quite decent though it might be delayed to December,” said Sebastien Galy, a strategist at Societe Generale.

The Federal Reserve next meets on June 16th and this week will be the last chance for members to discuss policy before the blackout period starts on June 5th.

So far, investors have taken the Fed at its word that the labour market needs to improve a lot more before it speaks of tapering. That helped yields on US 10-year notes ease to 1.58 per cent with Fed funds futures pricing in a first rate hike by the first quarter of 2023.

Elsewhere in equities, Asian shares edged higher and in Europe, indexes consolidated gains after last week’s record close ahead of manufacturing PMI data this week.

Yuan rising

A dovish Fed has also put the greenback under pressure against its rivals with the dollar nursing losses at a three-year low against the Chinese yuan.

The yuan was the big mover in global currency markets with bulls pushing its value against a trade-weighted basket of currencies to a five-year high and adding further pressure on exporters in the world’s second-biggest economy.

That spurred fresh verbal intervention by local policymakers even as latest factory data showed China’s factory activity growth may have peaked for now.

Concerns about global inflation and slowing growth have proved to be a boon for gold with prices for the yellow metal rising 8 per cent this month, vaulting comfortably above the $1,900 level.

Oil prices were firm after gaining more than 5 per cent last week to reach two-year closing highs as expectations of a rebound in global demand outweighed concerns about more supply from Iran once sanctions are lifted.

All eyes will be on OPEC this week as it reviews its supply agreement, and any hint of an increase in output could pressure prices.

Brent added 38 cents to $69.10 a barrel, while US crude rose 39 cents to $66.71.

Usually volatile cryptocurrencies enjoyed a quiet start to the week with bitcoin steadying around $36,000 while its smaller rival Ethereum rose nearly 4 per cent to $2,481. – Reuters