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US shares end higher, Treasury yields dip as Powell gives rate cut assurances

Published 2024-03-05, 09:36 p/m
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk on a pedestrian bridge at the central business district (CBD) during morning rush hour, ahead of the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC), in Beijing, China, February 29, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Wall Street followed world shares to a higher close on Wednesday and the benchmark U.S. Treasury yield dipped to a one-month low after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reassured investors that while inflation is not quite tamed rate cuts can be expected this year.

All three major U.S. stock indexes closed well below session highs, marking a partial rebound from Tuesday's steep sell-off. The tech-heavy Nasdaq enjoyed the most robust gain.

Powell told the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee that "if the economy evolves broadly as expected," the central bank can be expected to cut its policy rate this year. He added that continued progress against inflation "was not assured."

He also said the Fed was on a "good path" toward achieving a soft landing by bringing inflation under control while avoiding economic contraction. There is no reason to believe the U.S. economy is at short-term risk of recession, he said.

Powell is set to wrap up his two-day testimony when he appears before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

"Powell didn’t rock the boat," said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at Carson Group in Omaha. "He made it clear cuts likely will come later this year and at the same time the economy remains on firm footing."

"There was relief that he come off more hawkish," Detrick added.

European stocks hit a record high as investors weighed Powell's commentary the day before the European Central Bank is expected to issue its policy decision.

Labor market data released ahead of Friday's February employment report showed job openings dipped in the first weeks of 2024 and private employers added fewer workers than expected to their payrolls in February.

Powell has said a softening U.S. labor market is a precondition for bringing inflation down to the Fed's 2% annual target.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 75.86 points, or 0.2%, to 38,661.05, the S&P 500 gained 26.11 points, or 0.51%, to 5,104.76 and the Nasdaq Composite added 91.96 points, or 0.58%, to 16,031.54.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.39% and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.59%.

Emerging market stocks rose 0.67%. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.78% higher, while Japan's Nikkei lost 0.02%.

Bitcoin, which touched and then backed away from an all-time high on Tuesday, resumed its climb.

The cryptocurrency was last up 5.6% at $66,884.

"Cryptocurrencies in general are up significantly again today so Powell did little to change the risk appetite we’ve seen from investors so far in 2024," Detrick said.

The dollar softened against a basket of world currencies.

The dollar index fell 0.4%, with the euro up 0.38% to $1.0896.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.45% versus the greenback at 149.39 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2735, up 0.25% on the day.

Yields of 10-year U.S. Treasuries hit a one-month low.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 8/32 in price to yield 4.1078%, from 4.137% late on Tuesday.

The 30-year bond last rose 18/32 in price to yield 4.2406%, from 4.274% late on Tuesday.

Oil prices rebounded in the wake of a smaller-than-expected build in U.S. crude stocks and Powell's rate cut assurances.

U.S. crude jumped 1.25% to settle at $79.13 per barrel, while Brent settled at $82.96, up 1.12% on the day.

© Reuters. Passersby walk past an electric screen displaying a graph showing Japan's Nikkei share average movements outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan February 13, 2024.  REUTERS/Issei Kato/file photo

Gold continued to drift higher to a new record high for the second straight day, driven by bets on U.S. monetary easing.

Spot gold added 0.9% to $2,146.29 an ounce.

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