Global stocks edge higher on expectations the Fed will calm inflation jitters, and bond complacency creeps in

Traders and financial professionals work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Traders and financial professionals work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Global stocks inched higher on Tuesday ahead of the Federal Open Markets Committee two-day meeting, while bond yields eased and oil fell.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s comments could move the already volatile bond market and particularly impact growth stocks, according to analysts. BlackRock’s Rick Rieder told CNBC Powell’s briefing could be the “March madness” for markets since he’s expected to disclose the path forward for Fed policy.

Futures on the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and Nasdaq were about flat, suggesting a mixed opening for US markets later in the day.

“The Dow could look increasingly jittery as Wednesday’s Federal Reserve meeting approaches,” said Connor Campbell, a financial analyst at SpreadEx.

Global equities on Monday at first gave up opening gains as investors had to engage with new issues on AstraZeneca’s jab, with more than 10 countries suspending its use over possible blood clot links. But US markets powered back to their third successive record highs as more states including Florida, Connecticut, and New York announced plans to reduce the eligibility age for vaccines in the coming weeks.

Yield on the 10-year Treasury note moved 1.9 basis points lower to close at 1.606%, driven by real rates rather than inflation.

Bloomberg reported Monday President Joe Biden is considering increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, and planning to raise income tax for individuals earning over $400,000 a year. This would be used to fund the major infrastructure package that is to be rolled out.

The mass European suspension of AstraZeneca’s vaccine isn’t expected to last long, as the European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review related data on Tuesday. The EMA will then hold a meeting on Thursday to detail further action.

“The problem with this incident is that it’s going to be hard to persuade Europeans that there is no smoke without fire with regards to the AZ vaccine given the previous travails and misinformation even if vaccinations resume soon,” said Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid.

The various suspensions haven’t unduly impacted AstraZeneca’s market value. Shares in the company have fallen by just over 2% so far this month, compared with a drop of closer to 3.5% across the broader healthcare sector.

In morning trading in Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.5%, the Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.3%, and Germany’s DAX rose 0.4%.

In Asia, China is allegedly making Alibaba sell its stakes in Weibo and print news outlets including the South China Morning Post, due to growing concerns about its influence over public opinion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Crucially, the authorities seem to be sending the message that data and media must be state and not private-owned,” Rabobank analysts said in a note.

China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.7%, Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.5%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.6%.

Oil prices slipped, as a lack of new drivers led to more profit-taking ahead of the FOMC meeting. Brent crude futures fell 1.1% to $68.10 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate futures fell 1.2% to $64.59 a barrel. Both are still close to their highest in over a year.