Strong U.S. Dollar, Mixed Oil: Top 5 Things to Know in the Markets Today

Published February 20th, 2018 - 02:07 GMT
The U.S. dollar inched higher versus a basket of major currencies on Tuesday. Oil markets were split. (Shutterstock)
The U.S. dollar inched higher versus a basket of major currencies on Tuesday. Oil markets were split. (Shutterstock)

Here are the top five things you need to know in global markets on Tuesday, February 20:

1. Global stocks lower as fears from last week creep back in

Global stocks were mostly lower, as jitters from last week's sell-off sparked by fears of creeping inflation and higher borrowing costs returned to the market.

Asian stocks slipped, though many markets in the region remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. South Korea's Kospi index and Japan's Nikkei 225 fared the worst, closing down 1.1% and 1% respectively.

In Europe, shares were a tad lower in mid-morning trade, after ending a three-day recovery in the previous session. London's FTSE 100 was the biggest loser after earnings from both HSBC (LON:HSBA) and BHP (LON:BLT) disappointed investors.

Meanwhile, U.S. stock futures edged down, as traders returning from the long holiday weekend awaited earnings reports from retail heavyweights Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and Home Depot (NYSE:HD) before the bell.

Dow futures were down nearly 200 points, or around 0.8%, while S&P 500 futures fell 21 points, or about 0.8%. Nasdaq 100 futures lost 55 points, or roughly 0.8%.

Wall Street was closed Monday for Presidents' Day.

2. U.S. Dollar moves higher from three-year low

The U.S. dollar inched higher versus a basket of major currencies, moving further away from a three-year low set last week.

The dollar index, which gauges the U.S. currency against a basket of six major rivals, was nearly 0.5% higher at 89.55, well above Friday's three-year low of 88.15.

Despite the up-day, the dollar's outlook remained clouded by concerns that the ballooning U.S. fiscal deficit could disrupt the economy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield edged up to 2.92%, not far from last week's four-year peak. The U.S. cash bond market was closed Monday for a holiday.

Later on Tuesday, the Treasury Department is scheduled to hold 3-and-6-month note auctions, as well as 4-week and 2-year sales, deals that should test market appetite for U.S. debt in an environment of rising yields.

3. Euro zone bond yields up as ECB speculation mounts

Euro zone government bond yields rose across the board, as market speculation swirled over the next European Central Bank chief at a time when monetary policy is the main threat for bond markets.

Euro zone finance ministers on Monday chose Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos to succeed European Central Bank Vice President Vitor Constancio in May.

The move is likely to boost the chances of German Bundesbank Governor Jens Weidmann becoming head of the ECB next year to succeed Mario Draghi in 2019, possibly giving the ECB's policy a more hawkish tilt.

The yield on Germany's 10-year government bond yield, the benchmark for the region, was up 2 basis points to 0.75%, heading back toward a multi-year high of 0.808% hit earlier this month.

French government bonds mirrored that move, taking the country's 10-year borrowing costs back up about 1%.

4. Bitcoin climbs above $11,000-level, still low

Bitcoin prices broke through the $11,500-mark for the first time since January, as the digital currency continued to recover from heavy selloffs at the start of this month.

Bitcoin was last up around 4% at $11,315, after hitting its highest level since January 29 at $11,666 earlier. Prices have bounced back sharply after falling to a four-month low of around $6,000 on February 6.

Other major cryptocurrencies traded mixed, with Ethereum, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market cap, falling around 1.5% to $932.45.

The third largest cryptocurrency Ripple slumped around 3% to trade at $1.0919.

Meanwhile, Litecoin rallied 7% to $239.10.

  • 5. Oil markets mixed as U.S. crude, Brent go in opposite directions

Oil markets were split, with U.S. crude pushed up by reduced flows from Canada while international Brent prices eased.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.5% to $61.86 per barrel, while Brent crude futures were at $64.94 per barrel, down 1.1%.

Traders said the higher WTI prices were a result of reduced flows from Canada's Keystone pipeline, cutting Canadian supplies into the United States.

Outside North America, Brent crude eased on the back of a dip in Asian stocks and a stronger dollar.

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