US Stocks Fluctuate, Bonds Rise as Dollar Slips: Markets Wrap

New York (Mar 20)  US stocks fluctuated about 1 percent below all-time highs, while oil fell toward $48 a barrel. The dollar slipped and Treasuries advanced as investors digested fresh signs that the U.S. intends to rewrite the terms of global trade.

The S&P 500 Index was lower while technology-heavy equity indexes advanced. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.48 percent. Crude’s ninth retreat in the past 11 days dragged oil and gas producers lower. The pound was little changed after reversing earlier gains, as the U.K. said it will trigger the process to leave the European Union on March 29 . Gold touched the highest level in two weeks.

Investor focus on Monday turned to the outcome of a Group of 20 meeting, where finance ministers locked heads before issuing a statement that dropped a reference to resist all forms of protectionism. That’s renewing concerns about the U.S. president’s desire to pursue new trading terms. The U.S. currency slumped last week after the Federal Reserve delivered a more dovish message than expected, even as it raised interest rates.

“As the world’s Nr. 1 is preparing to set significant barriers against the world, investors are increasingly worried,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a market analyst at London Capital Group, wrote in a note. “The uncertainties regarding the U.S.’s relationship with the rest of the world” are weighing on equity traders’ sentiment, he said.

What’s coming up this week:
•A televised debate, the first of the French election campaign, between the five main presidential contenders is scheduled during prime time on Monday.
•U.K. inflation may have edged above the 2 percent target in February and retail sales probably rose, data may show Tuesday.
•March PMI for France is due Friday, along with final fourth quarter GDP figures.
•There’s a torrent of Fed speakers this week, headlined by Janet Yellen on March 23.
•There are central bank policy decisions in New Zealand, Philippines and Sri Lanka.
•Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will host trade talks with the European Union on Tuesday.

Here are the main market moves:

Stocks
•The S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent to 2,377.10 at 12:59 p.m. in New York.
•The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 0.1 percent, while small-caps in the Russell 2000 Index fell 0.5 percent.
•The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.1 percent, with oil and gas companies down 0.9 percent.
•The MSCI Emerging Market Index added 0.8 percent, headed for a seventh straight gain in its longest run since August.

Currencies
•Bloomberg’s dollar index fell 0.1 percent, headed for a fourth straight loss.
•The euro climbed 0.1 percent to $1.0752, while the British pound was little changed at $1.2393.

Bonds
•The yield on 10-year Treasuries slipped two basis points to 2.48 percent after falling four basis points on Friday.
•German bonds climbed one basis point to 0.45 percent.
•French 10-year bond yields were also two basis points higher to 1.12 percent ahead of the televised election debate this evening.

Commodities
•West Texas Intermediate crude slid 1.4 percent to $48.11 a barrel. It has dropped 11 percent this month, heading for the steepest one-month slide since July.
•Gold pared a gain of as much as 0.5 percent, with futures trading up 0.2 percent to $1,232 an ounce to head for a fourth day of gains.
•Base metals fell on the London Metal Exchange, with copper for delivery in three months down 0.2 percent and nickel retreating 0.7 percent.

Source: Bloomberg