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Wednesday Feb 17 2021

Global stocks slip, bitcoin extends record run

This file photo taken on December 17, 2020 shows a physical imitation of a Bitcoin at a crypto currency "Bitcoin Change" shop, near Grand Bazaar, in Istanbul. — AFP

LONDON: Global stock markets mostly fell Wednesday on profit-taking after a strong global rally, with investors worried valuations may have gone too high.

The Dow came off a record high at the start of trading on Wall Street, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also moved lower after dipping on Tuesday.

European stocks were lower in afternoon trade, with losses posted across most of Asia.

Oil prices meanwhile fell back, having recently hit 13-month highs.

Lifted in recent months by OPEC production cuts, there has been added support this week from a big freeze in Texas that has hammered output in the key US production state.

Bitcoin hit another record, at $51,719.10, having broken $50,000 for the first time on Tuesday.

The dollar rose Wednesday against the euro and pound, but dipped against the yen.

Analysts said there was room for a drop in equities, but the general view is that they will resume their strong upward march as Covid vaccine rollouts, slowing infection rates and the easing of lockdowns allow economies to return to normal.

The focus was firmly on Washington, where US lawmakers ponder the next move on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the prospect of which has been a key driver of a months-long surge in global equities.

Bets that the vast spending splurge will hand an extra boost to the world's top economy — and the prospect of business reopenings — have also fired inflation expectations, sending US Treasury yields close to one-year highs this week.

That has led to concerns about rising borrowing costs, which market-watchers fear could undercut the recovery and hit consumer spending.

"The move up in yields has been driven by increasing inflationary concerns amid a rise in energy prices along with the prospect of a big US fiscal stimulus and the global recovery entering a more solid stage," said National Australia Bank's Rodrigo Catril.

Meanwhile's Patrick J. O'Hare noted "that the incessant rise in stock prices has been pricing in the recovery already" and the bond market was now pricing in a recovery as well.

"A quick rise in rates could put a freeze on some of the hot growth stocks," he warned, however.

British inflation meanwhile climbed to 0.7% last month from 0.6 percent in December on higher food prices, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday.

Analysts expect British inflation to rise strongly in the coming months with the UK economy tipped to emerge from its latest coronavirus lockdown.

Key figures around 1430 GMT

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4% at 6,719.15 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.7% at 13,961.48

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.3% at 5,772.28

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.4% at 3,712.04

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.4% at 31,399.76

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6% at 30,292.19 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.1% at 31,084.94 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2043 from $1.2105 at 2150 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3854 from $1.3902

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.93 pence from 87.07 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.94 yen from 105.99 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $63.26 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.8 percent at $59.59 per barrel