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World stocks dither, bonds steady as recession worries weigh


Global stocks drifted on Thursday and U.S. Treasury yields hovered near multi-month lows as traders awaited crucial U.S. jobs data that may add to mounting concerns about a global economic slowdown.

As equity investors avoiding strong bets, ahead of the Good Friday holiday when the market-moving monthly U.S. non-farm payrolls report will also be released, the broad MSCI index of world stocks (.MIWO00000PUS) traded flat.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 (.STOXX) share index added 0.3%, boosted by data showing German industrial output rose significantly more than forecast in February. But recession fears weighed on U.S. stock futures and crude oil.

U.S. Nasdaq E-mini futures pointed to a 0.5% drop at the New York open, after the tech stock benchmark slumped 1% overnight. E-mini futures for the broader S&P 500 slipped 0.1%, following Wednesday’s 0.25% slide.

Following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s most aggressive cycle of interest rate hikes in decades, to battle stubbornly high inflation, traders are now positioning for the central bank to turn much more dovish.

Data overnight showed U.S. private employers hired far fewer workers than expected in March, adding to signs from earlier in the week of a loosening labour market.

The country’s services sector also slowed more than expected, while earlier figures showed a stalling at factories as well.

“What we’re seeing this week is those rate hikes having an impact on the broad economy for about the first time,” Roger Lee, head of UK equity strategy at Investec, said.

“The market is extrapolating this recent data for conviction that there is going to be a U.S. recession imminently.”

Economists polled by Reuters expect to see U.S. employers added 240,000 new workers in March, down from 311,000 the previous month. Average earnings growth is also expected to have slowed to 4.3% year-over-year, from 4.6% in March.

Money markets now see the odds of a further quarter-point hike at the May meeting versus a pause as a coin toss. And 74 basis points of easing are priced in by year-end.

“Investors should not rush to buy the pivot, as when the Fed cuts rates, it is too late to prevent a recession,” Barclays chief European equity strategist Emmanual Cau said.

Treasury yields, which move inversely to prices of the debt securities, have fallen far in recent weeks as traders added risk in bond markets instead of equities.

The yield on the 10-year note stood at around 3.29% on Thursday morning in London, sticking close to the nearly seven-month low of 3.266% reached overnight.

Germany’s 10-year bund yield , a benchmark for Eurozone borrowing costs, added 2 basis points to 2.2%.

This German yield now stands far below its level of about 2.7% from early March, before the failure of two U.S. banks and Credit Suisse’s rescue by UBS sparked concerns about banks lending cautiously to safeguard capital, potentially harming growth.

The dollar index was steady against other major currencies at 101.84, bumping around a two-month low.

Spot gold slipped 0.1% from a one-year high reached on Wednesday, to $2,019 per ounce, but remained more than 2% higher for the week.

Oil was also under pressure, despite a surprise output cut decision by OPEC+ producers at the weekend. Brent crude, the global benchmark , was off 0.3% at $84.76 a barrel.

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