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Stocks fall a day after Fed affirms rate outlook

By Reuters - May 03,2018 - Last updated at May 03,2018

People walk outside of the New York Stock Exchange in New York City on Wednesday (AFP photo)

NEW YORK — World stock indexes fell on Thursday, a day after the US Federal Reserve (Fed) reaffirmed the outlook for more rate hikes, while bond yields slid after a surprising drop in eurozone inflation data.

The Dow and benchmark S&P 500 stock indexes fell below key technical levels, with their 200-day moving averages, for the first time since early April, adding to bearish sentiment.

MSCI's gauge of equity markets across the globe shed 0.96 per cent.

A two-day Fed policy meeting ended with no change in rates on Wednesday, as expected, while the central bank said inflation had "moved close" to its target, leaving it on track to raise borrowing costs in June.

Adding to caution, a US delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrived in Beijing on Thursday for talks on tariffs, as Chinese media said the country would stand up to US bullying.

"We weakened [after] the FOMC meeting and it's a little bit of the same carrying over to today," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia. "Augmenting it is some worries about trade negotiations with China that are under way and what may come of that."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 336.06 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 23,588.92, the S&P 500 lost 35.19 points, or 1.34 per cent, to 2,600.48 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 94.37 points, or 1.33 per cent, to 7,006.53.

Some earnings disappointments also weighed on the markets. 

AIG shares dropped after the insurer reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit, while Cardinal Health declined after the drug distributor cut its annual earnings forecast.

In Europe, data showed that eurozone inflation fell to 1.2 per cent in April, according to the Eurostat flash estimate. Economists polled by Reuters had expected it to be unchanged from 1.3 per cent in March.

That pushed French and German 10-year government bond yields to two-week lows after the data.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index lost 0.73 per cent.

Benchmark US Ten-year notes last rose 10/32 in price to yield 2.929 per cent, from 2.964 per cent late Wednesday.

The Fed statement was not quite as hawkish as some had expected, though sentiment remained bullish given US rates were still clearly heading higher.

"The [Fed] statement carried only modest changes in wording, but they were meaningful nonetheless, highlighting that the Fed is optimistic on the outlook and intent on continuing to raise rates at a gradual pace," said Westpac analyst Elliot Clarke.

The US dollar erased all its 2018 losses in the past two weeks on expectations the Fed will continue to raise rates, even as other world central banks, including the European Central Bank, take longer to reduce stimulus.

The US dollar was near flat in choppy trading, as investors awaited Friday's US payrolls data for April.

The dollar index rose 0.1 per cent, with the euro up 0.05 per cent to $1.1956.

US crude fell 0.26 per cent to $67.75 per barrel and Brent was last at $73.17, down 0.26 per cent on the day. 

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