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While you were sleeping: Wall St, Treasuries gain before Powell testimony

Tuesday 27th February 2018

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Wall Street climbed, as did US Treasuries, amid bets Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will signal the central bank’s still eyeing three interest rate increases this year.

In 1.24pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.4 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.9 percent. In 1.08pm trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 0.9 percent. 

US Treasuries rose, pushing the yield on the 10-year note one basis point lower to 2.86 percent. That's the lowest in almost two weeks, according to Bloomberg.

On Tuesday Powell, who succeeded Janet Yellen this month, will speak before the House Financial Services Committee. 

“There was a lot of talk from various Federal Reserve related folks last week and that provided to a certain extent a sense of calm that we won’t see rates spike in the second half of this year,” Matt Schreiber, president and chief investment strategist at WBI Investments, told Bloomberg. 

“The market freaked out when they thought Jerome Powell might raise rates faster than expected—his first comments are eagerly anticipated here,” according to Schreiber.

The Dow moved higher, led by gains in shares of Cisco Systems and those of 3M, recently up 2.6 percent and 2.5 percent respectively. 

“I don’t think [Powell]’s going to say anything dovish or hawkish—in an attempt to at least have the first appearance to be down the middle or balanced,” Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B Riley FBR in Boston, told Reuters. 

Shares of General Electric and those of Coca-Cola fell, down 1.1 percent and 0.2 percent respectively, and were the only two stocks in the Dow to move lower in afternoon trading. 

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the session with a 0.5 percent gain from the previous close. Germany’s DAX Index added 0.4 percent, while France’s CAC40 Index rose 0.5 percent. 

The UK’s FTSE 100 index increased 0.6 percent, led by gains in shares of Anglo American and those of Associated British Foods.

Shares of ABF rallied after the company said it expects profit growth at its fast-fashion brand Primark to accelerate in the second half of the year. 

“We expect an acceleration in Primark profit growth in the second half as a result of an improvement in margin over the same period last year,” the company said in a statement. 

“This will be driven by better buying and some benefit of the recent weakness of the US dollar on purchases which will more than offset an expected return to a more normal level of markdowns, compared to the very low level achieved last year,” the company said. 

Shares of Associated British Foods closed 3.1 percent stronger in London. 

"With further reassurance that margins are stabilising at Primark...and no further downgrades to the sugar business, earnings momentum is moving back in the right direction," said analysts at Investec, who have a "buy" rating on the stock, Reuters reported. 


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