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US Treasury Secretary says market reaction to Fed's rate hike "overblown"

22 December, 2018, 10:26 | Author: Sara Gill
  • Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.3 per cent, with Australian shares slipping as much as 0.7 per cent to two-year lows.

Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and a handful of other huge technology companies, once the best-performing stocks on the market, are now leading the way lower.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite and the blue-chip CSI 300 fell 0.8 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.7 per cent.

The Nasdaq has shed 19.5 per cent from its August peak, just shy of confirming a bear market. And in their latest statement, they gave a nod to recent concerns about a slowdown outside the US and the volatile stock market. Now that the whole market is falling, these former favorites are now taking the worst of the losses.

"If you live by momentum, you die by momentum", said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist for CFRA.

Markets have suffered wide losses over the last week. "We do expect a very hard year for investors". Some analysts had hoped that recent stock-market turbulence might convince the Fed to halt the program, which, like rate hikes, acts to tighten credit.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 23,323.66 on Wednesday, the lowest at any point in in 2018, and 12.1 percent lower than October 3 when it closed at an all-time high of 26,951.81.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung from a gain of 381 points right before the Fed's decision was announced at 2 p.m.

The Fed has continued to forecast strong growth, which would support their case for tightening monetary policy, but the expected inflation spurt and rise in wages have not materialised.

In Europe, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index slid 0.8% to 6,711.93 points, with losses capped by stronger-than-expected United Kingdom retail sales data.

Fed officials did indicate the pace of rate hikes will slow, with a majority predicting on Wednesday that the central bank would raise rates no more than twice next year.

The Fed's fourth rate increase of the year, which sent Wall Street tumbling, moved the central bank squarely into the crosshairs of the president, who had said earlier a rate hike would be "foolish". "And markets have to react, live, to that "on the one hand, on the other hand" that Powell has to play in this economy".

US markets are cooling after "years of outperformance" and working off "overvaluation in some areas" such as major tech companies, said Shane Oliver of AMP Capital in a report. Media reports say the administration might also pull large numbers of soldiers out of Afghanistan.

The S&P 500 fell 36 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 2,471.

Still, global growth has slowed. Indexes in Italy, Portugal and Spain took bigger losses.

Crude reversed strong gains won a day earlier on concerns about growth and oversupplies of U.S. oil, and tracking equity losses.

USA junk bonds were sold off sharply, with their ETFs falling 0.9 per cent, the biggest decline since March 1. Brent crude, the standard for global oil prices, fell 1.3 percent to $53.67 a barrel in London.

-Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.32 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline lost 4.6 percent to $1.32 a gallon and heating oil slid 3.1 percent to $1.75 a gallon. The Italian FTSE MIB jumped 1.6 percent.

Oil prices meanwhile dived to fresh 15-month lows, prolonging volatility that has gripped the crude market in recent weeks.

Benchmark 10-year Treasuries retreated after steep gains on Wednesday.

Silver rose 0.3 percent to $14.87 an ounce and copper, which is considered an indicator of economic growth, fell 0.7 percent to $2.70 a pound. Natural gas lost 2.9 percent to $3.73 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Williams tried to correct the market impression that two interest rate increases are set in stone for next year, highlighting a slight change of language in the policy statement issued Wednesday.



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