Dollar surges while Wall Street wavers amid inflation worries

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. dollar climbed to a 16-month high Monday while U.S. stocks slipped in midday trading after a strong opening.

Lingering concerns about global growth amid signs of rising inflation were a boon to safe havens in cautious trading Monday, with the U.S. dollar hitting a 16-month high against a basket of competing currencies and U.S. Treasury yields also ticking upwards.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against six peers, hit 95.420 on Monday, its highest since July 2020, and was last up 0.3%.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks lost their grip on a strong opening, sliding to flat to negative territory around midday trading.

Rising Treasury yields also helped push equity prices lower.

Benchmark 10-year yields were last at 1.61% and are up from a one-month low of 1.42% last Tuesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.07%, the S&P 500 was flat, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.21%.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, was up just 0.05%.

A surprisingly strong report last week on U.S. inflation weighed down markets, as investors wondered if the Federal Reserve might be forced to raise rates sooner to combat price pressures. Now, investors are grappling with the looming holiday season, apparent progress on restarting the economy following the COVID-19 pandemic, and price increases that are higher than expected and don’t seem to be as transitory as some hoped.

“Inflation is being driven by the unusual supply shocks tied to the restart. We expect these imbalances to resolve over the next year, but see inflation as persistent and settling at a higher level than pre-Covid,” wrote Blackrock analysts in an investor note. “Although price rises are broad based, the mix of inflation shows the unusual restart dynamics at play.”

OIL DIPS

Those prices concerns were apparent in crude oil prices, where expectations of increased supply, mixed with worries demand could drop amid higher energy prices, helped push the commodity to a one-week low. The dollar’s surge also helped drive down oil, making it more expensive for buyers using other currencies.

Brent crude was last down 0.5% at $81.76 a barrel. U.S. crude fell 0.47% at $80.41 per barrel.

“The market now seems to be less concerned about the current supply tightness, expecting it to be short-lived,” Rystad senior markets analyst Louise Dickson said. “Traders are instead refocusing on the return of two bearish factors – the possibility of more oil supply sources and more COVID-19 cases.”

The market has been weighed down by ongoing speculation that President Joe Biden’s administration could release oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, while the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries last week cut its world oil demand forecast for the fourth quarter.

Safe-haven gold looked set to continue a seven-session winning streak, with spot gold prices climbing 0.11% to $1,866.13 an ounce.

Graphic: The US dollar index https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/klvykdmrrvg/USD1511.PNG

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder in Washington; Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Chizu Nomiyama, William Maclean)

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