Shares hit pause and the dollar lost ground against the yen on Tuesday, as investors awaited the outcomes of Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan meetings that will both conclude on Wednesday.
Nagging doubts about the firepower left available to top central banks and a slip in oil prices made for another subdued start in Europe as the STOXX 600 dipped in and out of the red after seven falls in the last 10 days.
Industrial firms climbed while oil and gas was the weak spot. Crude prices slipped after major producer Venezuela, itself in a deep economic crisis, said oil markets were effectively 10% oversupplied.
The yen was creeping higher in the currency markets, meanwhile amid speculation the Bank of Japan may do little more than tinker with its stimulus program and that the Federal Reserve was likely to stay guarded about its rate hike plans.
From Commerzbank in Frankfurt, Esther Reichelt said she expected a quiet day, though thin trading volumes could lead to some exaggerated moves not driven by fundamental factors.
“Everybody is just waiting for the BOJ and the Fed – why do anything today?” she said. “Everyone has already positioned for these events and there is no new information that could give them a reason to reposition.”
The yen was changing hands at 101.645 yen. It has risen almost 20% over the past 12 months despite the BOJ‘s best efforts to weaken it. The euro was also up at$1.1190, though the pound dipped to $1.3008.
The pre-BOJ and Fed caution kept Europe’s bond market moves small too, although longer-dated euro zone government yields edged lower with the BOJ expected to try to lever investors away from its longer-maturity bonds.
The yield on 30-year German Bunds fell 5 basis points to 0.60%, and there were similar moves on Dutch, Finnish, French and Spanish 30-year government bonds.
Other euro zone bond yields also fell, if not quite so sharply. Germany’s 10-year Bund, the region’s benchmark bond, dropped 1.8 bps, turning back into negative territory while Portugal saw a second day of outperformance.
European tension over the UK’s vote to leave the EU and a flood of immigration has also continued to simmer.
British Prime Minister Theresa May met U.S. business chiefs from firms including Goldman Sachs, IBM and Amazon on Monday in New York to try and reassure investors, while German leader Angela Merkel appeared rueful over the refugee crisis.
“If I could, I would turn back time by many, many years,” Merkel said, sounding particularly somber.
Despite the holding pattern in major markets, plenty of action loomed in emerging markets.
Hungary’s central bank was expected to stick to its unconventional easing policy following a surprise S&P upgrade to investment grade on Friday that has bolstered its high flying stock and bond markets and the forint.
Nigeria, which in contrast was downgraded on Friday, also has a central bank meeting. A Reuters poll shows it is expected to stay on hold before hiking interest rates later in the year. Its finance minister, though, made a strident call for a cut on Monday.
In Asia overnight, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.1%.
Australian shares finished slightly higher. The Australian Securities Exchange opened without incident on Tuesday after technical faults caused extensive disruptions on Monday.
Japan’s Nikkei erased its early gains to end 0.2% lower as trading resumed after a public holiday on Monday. Tokyo markets will also be closed on Thursday, with the BOJ meeting sandwiched in between.
Oil slipped back to $45.79 per barrel having briefly rallied on Monday on Venezuela’s bid to talk up a potential OPEC output freeze, though that soon fizzled on indications that U.S. crude stockpiles had risen again last week.
Gold though added 0.2% to $1,315.90 an ounce, on expectations that the Fed will stand pat on rates when it ends its two-day meeting on Wednesday.
EMini futures for the S&P 500 also edged up 0.2%, after major U.S. indexes ended Monday’s choppy session nearly flat.
Global markets have been blowing hot and cold in recent weeks over the Fed’s intentions, which remain far from clear after both hawkish and dovish comments from several Fed officials.
“It’s a lot of uncertainty, leading into the Fed,” said Jennifer Vail, head of fixed income research at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Portland, Oregon