Global Stocks Steady Before Busy Week, China Skips Rate Cut

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LONDON/SYDNEY—Global stocks held steady on Monday, with U.S. markets closed for a holiday, while Chinese equities fell slightly after the country’s central bank wrong-footed investors by skipping on a rate cut.

MSCI’s world stock index was unchanged in morning trading in Europe. It has fallen around 0.35 percent so far this year after rallying 20 percent in 2023.

China’s CSI 300 index fell to its lowest since 2019 but recovered to stand 0.1 percent lower as investors digested the central bank’s decision to leave its medium-term policy rate unchanged on Monday, defying expectations for a cut.

Despite Monday’s sleepy start, investors are in for a busy week with data on Chinese fourth-quarter growth, UK inflation, and U.S. retail sales all due on Wednesday.

They will also be listening closely to central bank officials, especially the Federal Reserve’s Christopher Waller, whose dovish turn in late November helped send markets soaring and who speaks on Tuesday.

Europe’s STOXX 600 index was down 0.3 percent on Monday after ending the previous week virtually unchanged. Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX were also 0.3 percent lower.

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Traders expect around 165 basis points of rate cuts from the Fed this year, and see an 80 percent chance of them starting in March, according to money market pricing.

“The first half of January has shown a dislocation between rate expectations and data in the U.S.,” said Francesco Pesole, currency strategist at ING.

“The two most important data points for the Federal Reserve, labour and CPI inflation figures, both came in hotter than expected.” Pesole said “strong words from the Fed, perhaps (from) Powell himself,” might be needed to rein in some of the heavy rate-cut bets.

Futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.1 percent, with U.S. markets shut for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, meaning Treasury trading was closed. Germany’s benchmark 10-year bond yield rose about 4 bps to 2.18 percent after flatlining last week.

Japanese stocks continued to shine, with the Nikkei 225 index hitting a new 34-year high above 36,000. The market has been buoyed by falls in the yen and U.S. bond yields in recent days.

The focus of world leaders and executives gathering for the 54th World Economic Forum meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland, will be squarely on global politics.

However, markets showed limited reaction to the victory of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan over the weekend, a result which displeased Beijing.

The U.S. Republican Iowa caucus will be run in frigid weather later on Monday. And fears of a wider Middle East conflict continued to bubble after the U.S. military on Sunday said its warplanes shot down a missile fired from Houthis areas of Yemen.

The euro was treading water at $1.095, while the dollar index held steady at around 102.4.

Oil prices had got some lift from disruptions to shipping in the Red Sea, though worries about demand this year have limited the rally.

Brent crude oil was last down 0.1 percent at $78.20 a barrel, down from a two-week high of $80.75 on Friday.

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