LONDON, UK – Global stocks sank on Thursday after the US Federal Reserve hinted it could hike interest rates again this year to tame inflation and other central banks warned they were not done either.
London stocks bucked that trend, however, after the Bank of England held interest rates steady after 14 hikes, helping the FTSE 100 to claw back its losses and peek into positive territory.
But the decision, made a day after data showed UK inflation surprisingly slowed in August, sent the British pound off a cliff to a six-month low of 1.2234.
Frankfurt fell 1.1 percent and Paris sank 1.4 percent in afternoon eurozone trade, mirroring Asian losses.
Sea of red
In a move dubbed a “hawkish hold” by analysts, the Fed on Wednesday held borrowing costs but indicated another hike is likely in 2023 to tackle US inflation, and with fewer cuts than anticipated in 2024.
“The Fed’s hawkish hold has caused a bit of a wobble in the markets but I’m not convinced the central bank is as serious about another rate hike as it is claiming,” Craig Erlam, analyst at traders OANDA, told AFP.
“Investors are wary of the central bank tipping the economy over the edge which is why we are seeing a sea of red today.”
Sweden’s Riksbank and Norway’s Norges Bank each raised their key interest rates by a quarter-point on Thursday.
The Swiss National Bank unexpectedly left its rate unchanged, confounding expectations for an increase.
All three central banks cautioned that more hikes may be necessary.
The Fed’s much-anticipated meeting finished on Wednesday with borrowing costs held at a two-decade high – as expected – but the board’s “dot plot” guide to future rates pointing to another lift and just two cuts next year, instead of the four previously anticipated.
That dealt a blow to sentiment among traders, who have feared more restrictive measures following a string of data showing that 11 hikes in 18 months were not having the desired impact on inflation, which is still well above the bank’s two-percent target.
Oil prices extended the week’s losses on the prospect of higher US rates, as the stronger dollar made it more expensive for clients using other currencies.
Bets on the Fed lifting rates again and holding them there for some time put further upward pressure on the dollar against its peers, hitting a fresh 10-month yen high above 148.
That has returned focus on the Bank of Japan ahead of its own meeting on Friday, with officials recently saying that they were keeping a close watch on foreign exchange markets, fuelling speculation they would intervene to protect the yen if it continued to weaken.