- World stocks inch higher as Apple results lift tech shares
- Fed likely to keep interest rates steady but signal June hike
- Eyes on Fed's view of economy, inflation outlook
- Dollar off 3 1/2-mth high but hems in equities, emerging markets
Forecast-beating results from the world’s biggest company, Apple, lifted tech shares on Wednesday, putting Wall Street on track for a firmer session despite some trepidation over a Fed meeting later in the day.
Expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will signal more policy tightening ahead kept investors wary of big market moves, especially after currency markets were roiled this week by the dollar’s surge to 3 1/2-month highs against a basket of currencies.
But the dollar edged back down after Tuesday’s 0.7 percent rise, allowing world stocks to rise after two days of losses , especially following Apple’s 4 percent after-market gains.
The world’s biggest company by market capitalisation beat profit and revenue expectations in the first quarter, thanks to robust iPhone sales, and it announced a $100 billion share buyback.
Germany-listed Apple shares jumped 5.7 percent and the New York-listed stock was 3.6 percent higher in pre-market trade.
“The headline news from Apple on iPhone sales has been taken well and there’s a relief bounce today across Apple supply chain names which had been hit in recent weeks,” said Neil Campling, co-head of the global thematic group at Mirabaud Securities.
The results lifted Europe’s tech index 1.2 percent to a six-week high, led by an 8 percent surge in shares in AMS , provider of the facial recognition technology used in iPhones.
Chipmakers STMicroelectronics, Infineon, BE Semiconductor and ASML also gained 1.1 to 3.8 percent, enjoying the positive mood on the sector.
U.S. equity futures signaled the S&P500 would open 0.2 percent higher. Futures for the Nasdaq tech benchmark were half a percent higher.
Tech gains were less marked in Asia, where markets in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong all closed weaker. Campling said the Apple results had raised some “red flags,” including high inventory levels and a lower average selling price for its handsets.
“It’s a strange thing to do, to increase inventory so sharply. There will be more questions about ‘where do we go from here’,” he said.
That uncertainty about future profits, alongside the possibility of higher U.S. interest rates, is weighing on other sectors too, even though S&P500 companies posted 10 percent earnings growth in the first quarter, according to Thomson Reuters.
Oil and metals prices near multi-year highs are a major concern, leaving market players wondering if “perhaps this is as good as it’s going to get,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for Oanda in Singapore.
U.S. 10-year yields hovered just below recent four-year highs above 3 percent. German yields, dragged to six-week highs by the U.S. bond selloff, stood just below those levels.
The Fed is likely to announce at 1800 GMT that it is holding interest rates steady. But it will probably encourage expectations of a rate increase in June.
Those expectations were strengthened after a survey on Tuesday suggested inflationary pressures were building .
A hawkish-sounding Fed could further boost the dollar, which has roared higher in recent weeks erasing its year-to-date losses versus a basket of currencies. The gains came amid signs the Fed will be the only major central bank to raise rates in the coming months.
“It is this concern around inflation and the robustness of the U.S. economy that is likely to dominate when the Fed concludes its meeting,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London.
“It will offer policymakers a decent opportunity to critique the health of the U.S. economy.”
In contrast to the United States, rate rise expectations elsewhere have receded after disappointing economic data.
Expectations of a Bank of England rate rise this month have virtually been priced out. The European Central Bank and central banks in Japan, Switzerland and Sweden have all hinted that policy tightening remains some way off.
Fresh data confirmed that expectation for the euro zone, showing first-quarter growth at 0.4 percent, below the 0.7 percent quarterly increases seen in the past three quarters . HSBC analysts said the data showed the euro zone was experiencing “a slowdown not a slump” but they added that with inflation staying weak, “there is every reason for the ECB to maintain a dovish stance for the time being.”
The euro was flat, staying just off 3 1/2-year lows hit to the dollar on Tuesday.