Stocks climb looking ahead to Fed meet

LONDON (AFP/APP): Stock markets climbed Monday with investors looking ahead to a meeting of the Federal Reserve this week hoping for fresh clues about prospects for higher interest rates as inflation soars.
Europe’s main indices climbed in early deals, after Tokyo closed higher in thin Asian trading owing to regional public holidays.
London investors brushed off the expected announcement Monday from the UK government that it will delay the lifting of its remaining lockdown restrictions.
Another record close Friday for the S&P 500 stocks index on Wall Street provided a healthy lead to the new trading week.
At its two-day meeting concluding Wednesday, “the Fed is largely expected to maintain its current level of monetary assistance and is again expected to reiterate its view that the current inflationary spike is a passing phase”, noted Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.
“Even so, there have more recently been suggestions that discussions on tapering relief are likely to be nearing the top of the agenda, even if this does not lead to imminent action.”
Markets appear to have accepted Fed insistence that the inflation spike in the US and elsewhere will be temporary and that its ultra-loose monetary policies — including record low interest rates — will be maintained for the foreseeable future.
There had been a worry that soaring prices would force the bank to taper its bond-buying scheme earlier than first thought.
Confidence among investors though remains high as vaccine rollouts, the easing of containment measures, central bank largesse and government stimulus provide support, with observers forecasting a rally that began in April 2020 will continue into next year.
On Sunday, leaders from the Group of Seven wealthy nations vowed to start delivering one billion doses of Covid vaccines to poorer countries.
The pledge fell far short of the 11 billion doses that campaigners say are needed to end a pandemic that has claimed nearly four million lives and wrecked economies around the globe.
Looking ahead to the Fed meeting, Bank of Singapore chief economist Mansoor Mohi-uddin said the central bank is this week “likely to start discussing when it will begin slowing its quantitative easing (stimulus), given the US economy’s strong rebound from the pandemic”.
But he expects it to wait “until as late as December before announcing it will start tapering in early 2022” as it awaits a stronger jobs market and steadier inflation.
Elsewhere Monday, oil prices continued their run higher on stronger demand expectations, with Brent reaching $73.61 per barrel — the highest level since April 2019.
Bitcoin surged to within touching distance of $40,000 for the first time in more than two weeks after Elon Musk said at the weekend that his Tesla company would accept payments in the unit again when it is mined using cleaner energy.
The electric car maker in February said that customers could use cryptocurrency, sending bitcoin surging, before Musk changed his mind citing environmental concerns.
Bitcoins are produced by powerful computers that have to solve equations and consume huge amounts of electricity in the process.