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Stocks tread water as investors await Fed policy insights

·3 min read

By Pete Schroeder 

  WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global stock markets were mixed while U.S. Treasury yields ticked up on Monday, as investors waited for the results of a Federal Reserve policy meeting before making any major new bets. 

  The continued hope for a rapid economic comeback put wind in the sails of oil markets as investors anticipated surging travel demand, while safe-haven gold dipped. 

  The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 85.85 points, or 0.25%. But the S&P 500 gained 7.71 points, or 0.18%, and the Nasdaq Composite added 104.72 points, or 0.74% to close, both record highs for the indices. 

  The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, rose 1.37 points, or 0.19%. 

  Benchmark 10-year yields rose 4 basis points on Monday to 1.50%, mounting a bit of a comeback after falling to a three-month low of 1.43% on Friday. They have dropped from a one-year high of 1.78% in March. 

  The major market focus is on the upcoming Fed meeting, which will mark the first time the central bank has set policy since a pair of disappointing jobs reports and potential signs of looming inflation. Fed officials have maintained they view recent price increases as "transitory," but the policy update, paired with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's ensuing news conference on Wednesday, will be pored over for signs of when the Fed might begin to pull back unprecedented pandemic stimulus. 

  "While most market participants don't think that the Fed will officially start to taper bond purchases at Wednesday's meeting, there is a greater chance that the growing consensus within the committee is recognizing that the economy has indeed made substantial progress and delaying removing some accommodation risks fanning inflation and financial instability," said Patrick Leary, chief market strategist at Incapital. 

  Analysts said the central bank will have to tread a fine line, laying out its strategy for exiting extreme accommodation without spooking investors. 

  Gold prices dipped as investors prepared for a possible Fed exit strategy. Spot gold prices fell $10.6705, or 0.57%, to $1,865.97 an ounce. U.S. gold futures settled 0.7% down at $1,865.9. 

  Oil prices ended mostly unchanged Monday, after investors drove prices to their highest levels in over two years in anticipation of surging demand. Brent settled up 17 cents at $72.86 a barrel. Earlier in the session, it reached $73.64 a barrel, its highest since April 2019. U.S. West Texas Intermediate fell 3 cents to settle at $70.88 a barrel, after earlier touching $71.78 a barrel, its highest since October 2018. [O/R] 

  In currencies, the U.S. dollar dipped slightly on Monday after logging its largest weekly change in over a month. 

  The dollar index, which tracks the greenback versus a basket of six currencies, fell 0.056 point, or 0.06%. 

  Bitcoin bounced back somewhat after Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted that the electric carmaker could reopen the door to bitcoin transactions in the future. It traded above $40,000 for the first time in more than two weeks, before paring gains to trade at $39,824.03. 

  (Reporting Pete Schroeder in Washington. Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Alexander Smith, Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler) 

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