Fed rate hike predictions support dollar but weigh on stocks

LONDON – European stock markets drifted lower Friday as investors hunkered down for a likely U.S. rate hike next month after a signal from Fed chief Janet Yellen. Volkswagen shares were little changed after the company announced plans to cut 30,000 jobs as part of a restructuring package to deal with a fallout from an emissions-rigging scandal.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, France’s CAC 40 was down 0.4 per cent to 4,510 while Germany’s DAX fell 0.1 per cent to 10,675. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.4 per cent lower at 6,765. U.S. stocks were poised for a lower opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.5 per cent.

RATE HORIZON: After a week when market moves were being largely driven by the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president, the focus has increasingly turned to the prospect of a rate hike from the Federal Reserve next month. In remarks to Congress on Thursday, Yellen suggested the U.S. central bank is on track to raise interest rates when policymakers hold their final meeting of the year in December. She said the improving U.S. economy has bolstered the case for raising rates, in comments that increased certainty for investors. The Fed raised its key interest rate in December 2015 but it’s still at ultralow levels that have fueled a multiyear global stock market boom.

DOLLAR BUOYANT: Predictions of a rate hike have been one of the main reasons why the dollar has been buoyant over recent weeks. Also supporting the dollar has been the sharp rise in U.S. bond yields following Trump’s election as traders price in the prospect of more expansionary fiscal policy and a higher inflation profile. As a result, the dollar has risen to near year-highs against the euro and six-month highs against the yen. On Friday, it was fairly steady, with the euro unchanged at $1.0618 and the dollar flat at 110.14 yen.

ANALYST TAKE: “Markets continue to price in a more active Federal Reserve in the coming years, starting with a likely rate hike next month which is now more than 90% priced in by the markets,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA. “The yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury is now around the same level it was this time last year when the Fed was preparing its first hike in almost a decade and about to forecast four more this year, which didn’t exactly go to plan.”

VW’S JOB CUTS: The news that Volkswagen is planning to cut 30,000 jobs in a wide-ranging restructuring of its namesake brand as it tries to recover from a scandal over cars rigged to cheat on diesel emissions tests had little impact on the company’s share price, which was more or less unchanged at 129 euros. The German company said the job cuts are part of a long-term plan to improve profitability and shift resources and investment to electric-powered vehicles and digital services.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index added 0.6 per cent to finish at 17,967.41 as the yen hit a six-month low, helping shares of the country’s big exporters. South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.3 per cent to 1,974.58 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.4 per cent to 22,344.21. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.5 per cent to 3,192.86 while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.4 per cent to 5,359.40.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 30 cents at $45.72 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, rose 34 cents to $46.83 a barrel in London.