Oil and bitcoin are rallying while stocks are mixed as traders weigh the Fed’s more measured take on rate cuts

  • Fed Chair Jerome Powell poured cold water on traders’ hopes for a cut to interest rates next month.
  • The stance appears “fully priced in the asset prices,” says one analyst.
  • Rising tensions between the US and Iran and the ongoing US-China trade war drove oil higher.
  • Bitcoin rallied 12%.
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The Federal Reserve’s chairman, Jerome Powell, poured cold water on traders’ hopes for a cut to interest rates next month, a move that analysts say is priced into equities prices as stocks were either flat or slightly down on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, geopolitical tensions pushed oil prices higher. Bitcoin is up 12% to over $US12,500.

“The Fed is insulated from short-term political pressures,” Powell said in a speech on Tuesday, pushing back against President Donald Trump’s repeated calls for rate cuts. The central bank continues to weigh low unemployment and economic growth against “heightened uncertainties” such as the ongoing US-China trade war, weaker global economic data, and tepid inflation, he said.

While the case for lower interest rates has strengthened, he said “monetary policy should not overreact to any individual data point or short-term swing in sentiment.”

Traders may be more preoccupied with geopolitical issues.

“At this point, the dovish Fed expectations appear to be fully priced in the asset prices,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at London Capital Group.

Relations between the US and Iran continue to worsen, but hopes for a resolution to the US-China trade war have grown after Bloomberg reported the US is willing to suspend the next round of tariffs – which target more than $US300 billion worth of Chinese goods – and restart trade negotiations if Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping goes well.

“This weekend’s Trump-Xi meeting is poised to be the market’s litmus test for risk appetite going into the rest of the year,” said Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM.

Here’s the market roundup as of 10:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. in New York):

  • Asian markets drifted lower with the Shanghai Composite down 0.2% and Japan’s Nikkei down 0.5%, while the SZSE Component was flat and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.1%.
  • European were flat in morning trading with Germany’s DAX, Britain’s FTSE 100, and the Euro Stoxx 50 all within 0.1% moves.
  • US stocks are set for slightly higher open. Futures underlying the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500, and Nasdaq were up at least 0.1%.
  • Oil prices have surged with West Texas Intermediate crude up 1.9% at $US58.90 a barrel, and Brent crude up 1.4% at $US65.20.
  • Bitcoin has surged 10% to about $US12,500. The cryptocurrency has risen by more than a third in the past week.