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Stocks dip as yields hold near one-year high

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Chuck Mikolajczak and Matt Scuffham
·4 min read
Workers clear snow from a sidewalk outside the NYSE during a snow storm in Manhattan, New York
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By Chuck Mikolajczak and Matt Scuffham

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gauge of global stocks dipped in choppy trading on Monday as investors eyed the yield on U.S. Treasuries for signs of inflation pressures in the wake of the U.S. Senate's passage of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.

After climbing as high as 1.613% on the session, the third time above 1.6% in the past year, the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield held near a more than one-year high.

"If rates are grinding higher because people are getting optimistic about what economic growth looks like, that is still supportive for equity prices," said Tom Hainlin, global investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management's Ascent Private Wealth Group in Minneapolis.

"It is just if those rates start to get away from you on inflation expectations, then the multiples on stocks come down and there is more concern about that," he added.

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 15/32 in price to yield 1.6064%, from 1.554% late on Friday.

Investors have wrestled with whether the stimulus will help global growth rebound faster from the COVID-19 downturn or cause the world's biggest economy to overheat and lead to runaway inflation.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday that President Joe Biden's coronavirus aid package will provide enough resources to fuel a "very strong" U.S. economic recovery, and noted "there are tools" to deal with inflation.

Analysts largely expect an acceleration in inflation, stoked in part by the latest climb in oil prices, which on Monday briefly climbed above $70 for the first time since January 2020.

"Everybody is still concerned that inflation is on the rise. The signs are there for near-term inflation," said Ellis Phifer, a market strategist at Raymond James in Memphis, Tennessee.

"I don't think it's a long-term inflation issue yet. But near-term, all the signs and pressures are there. And the only thing fighting against it a bit is the stronger dollar."

On Wall Street, the Dow advanced while the Nasdaq shed over 2%. That marked a more than 10% fall since its Feb. 12 closing high, confirming a correction in the index's value. The technology sector and other richly valued names have been highly susceptible to rising rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 306.14 points, or 0.97%, to 31,802.44, the S&P 500 lost 20.59 points, or 0.54%, to 3,821.35 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 310.99 points, or 2.41%, to 12,609.16.

Shares of banks and automakers lifted European shares as investors continued to move into economy-linked sectors on hopes of a solid rebound from the coronavirus downturn.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 2.10% and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.57%.

U.S. economic data also pointed to a continued recovery, as the Commerce Department said wholesale inventories increased solidly in January despite a surge in sales, suggesting inventory investment could again contribute to growth in the first quarter.

On foreign exchange markets, the dollar index shot up to a high of 92.341, its highest since Nov. 24.

The dollar index rose 0.565%, with the euro down 0.61% to $1.1844.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.54% versus the greenback at 108.91 per dollar, while sterling was last trading at $1.382, down 0.15% on the day.

The jump in yields and the dollar has weighed on gold, which offers no fixed return.

Spot gold dropped 1.2% to $1,680.69 an ounce after hitting a nine-month low of $1,678.40.

U.S. gold futures settled 1.2% down at $1,678.

Oil prices rose after attacks on Saudi Arabian oil sites and the stimulus passage, before reversing course to trade lower on the day.

U.S. crude futures settled down $1.04, or 1.57%, at $65.05 per barrel. Brent crude futures settled at $68.24 per barrel, down $1.12 or 1.61%.

(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Sonya Hepinstall)