By Christopher Whittall
Global stocks were mostly steady Thursday while the dollar continued to pull back from multiyear highs following the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's December meeting in which officials expressed uncertainty over President-elect Donald Trump's policies on the economy.
U.S. futures pointed to a flat opening for the Dow Jones Industrial Average after the bluechip index rose to within 60 points of the 20,000 mark on Wednesday. The Stoxx Europe 600 was up 0.1% recently, while Asian markets were mixed, with stocks in Hong Kong gaining while Japanese shares declined.
Most marketsstarted this year where 2016 left off, said Jeroen Blokland, a senior portfolio manager at Robeco, with rising equities reflecting investor expectations of an improving economy that could be further boosted by Mr. Trump's policies of cutting taxes and increasing spending.
"Most people are trying to extend this positive sentiment from last year, but we do have some caution in the coming months something could turn," said Mr. Blokland, who is taking a neutral stance on equities right now.
Risks that could derail the stock market rally include disappointing corporate earnings or a re-emergence of concerns over China's economy, he said.
China was in the spotlight again Thursday as the Chinese yuan rose sharply against the U.S. dollar, tracking an even more dramatic rise in the offshore yuan late Wednesday. Meanwhile, offshore yuan-borrowing costs surged amid rumblings about China cracking down on capital outflows.
Still, themoves in the yuan barely caused a ripple in other markets, in stark contrast to the tremors caused by sharp depreciations in the currency in early 2016 and August 2015.
Some investors played down the moves in the Chinese currency. Mark Dowding, co-head of investment-grade debt at BlueBay Asset Management, said the recent gains in the yuan should be viewed in the context of what he sees as a longer-term decline. He said the Chinese authorities appeared to be reasserting control over the currency.
"The fact that the Chinese authorities are showing they're still on top of the situation and in control, if anything, should be relatively supportive of other risk assets," he said.
The rise in the yuan came amid broader dollar weakness Thursday following the release of the Fed minutes. Investors betting the U.S. central bank would raise interest rates at a faster clip than previously expected had helped push the buck to its highest level on Tuesday since 2002 and sent government bond yields sharply higher in recent weeks.
The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the dollar against a basket of 16 other currencies, was down 0.3% Thursday following the release of the Fed minutes. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which falls as prices rise, was 2.436% Thursday, down from 2.452% at Wednesday's close..
Meanwhile, gold continued to gain as investors pared back expectations of a more aggressive Fed rate rising cycle. Prices were up 0.7% at $1,174 an ounce.
Stocks in Europe were little changed, with gains in health care and telecom shares offsetting losses in energy companies and utilities.
In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.5% after purchasing managers index reports from China and Hong Kong registered improvements. The Nikkei Stock Average ended down 0.4% after rising 2.5% on Wednesday.
In other commodities, Brent crude oil was down 0.1% at $56.37 a barrel.
Hong Shen and Saumya Vaishampayan contributed to this report.
Write to Christopher Whittall at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 05, 2017 06:23 ET (11:23 GMT)
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