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Stocks struggle ahead of US inflation data, ECB meeting

·3-min read
Higher prices of steel and other metals boosted producer inflation in China, but consumers have so far been spared a hit

Global stocks experienced another range-bound session Wednesday ahead of keenly-awaited US inflation data and a European Central Bank policy decision.

Global equities have been in a holding pattern this month as traders try to determine the outlook for central bank policies amid concerns that a spike in prices as economies emerge from lockdowns could raise borrowing costs.

Investors are keen for Thursday's reading on US consumer prices for May, an important indicator of whether prices are picking up significantly, potentially triggering a shift in Federal Reserve policy.

The Fed has argued that price increases thus far will be transient, but an outsized jump could unnerve investors, analysts said.

Prices of goods leaving Chinese factories rose at the highest rate in more than a decade last month, official data showed. But factories so far seem to be absorbing higher costs rather than passing them on to consumers.

For now, producer price inflation has "already triggered Beijing's response including vowing to add supply and cracking down on bitcoin mining," Nomura chief China economist Lu Ting told AFP.

US stocks finished lower after another sluggish session.

"It's quiet, light trading, just spinning its wheels, and been doing that since the beginning of the week," said Peter Cardillo of Spartan Capital Securities. "We are stuck in a trading range pattern until we get news that will motivate the market on either side of the equation."

European stocks also ended the day mostly lower, ahead of the ECB's latest policy meeting. Analysts are not expecting any changes but looking for shifts in its outlook as the recovery presses ahead.

"It's an opportune time for a thorough review given the improved state of both the economy and the vaccination rollout," said National Australia Bank analyst David de Garis.

"While there's no denying the better run of data... prudence around the pandemic, including from variants, also argues for a degree of policy caution."

Markets were looking ahead also to the start Friday of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations. The gathering in England will be Joe Biden's first foreign trip as US president.

A decision by El Salvador to make bitcoin legal tender, making the Central American country the first nation to adopt a cryptocurrency for everyday use, helped boost the price of the digital money.

- Key figures at 2030 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 34,447.14 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.2 percent at 4,219.55 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN 0.1 percent at 13,911.75 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,081.01 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.4 percent at 15,581.14 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 6,563.45 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 4,096.85 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,860.80 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.1 percent at 28,742.63 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3,591.40 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2177 from $1.2173 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4112 from $1.4157

Euro/pound: UP at 86.29 pence from 85.99 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.63 yen from 109.50 yen

Brent North Sea crude: FLAT at $72.22 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $69.96 per barrel

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