Bond yields ease as Middle East fighting goes on, stocks gain

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global stock indexes rose on Wednesday as minutes from the last U.S. Federal Reserve meeting showed policymakers on cautious footing last month, while benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell to about a two-week low as fighting continued between Palestinian militants and Israel.

Oil prices extended declines from Tuesday, when a top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia pledged to help stabilize the market. Prices had spiked on Monday in the wake of Hamas’ weekend attack on southern Israel.

Israel formed an emergency unity government on Wednesday as its jets pounded Gaza and tanks massed around the Palestinian enclave.

Minutes from the Fed’s Sept. 19-20 meeting released Wednesday showed policymakers weighing the uncertainty around the path of the U.S. economy, including difficulties estimating the state of financial markets, potential oil price shocks, and the impact of labor union strikes.

“On balance, the minutes show officials turning far more concerned about downside risks to the U.S. economy – but also expressing humility in the face of deeply confusing and often contradictory signals in the data,” said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Corpay in Toronto.

There was slight market reaction to earlier data that showed U.S. producer prices increased more than expected in September but that underlying inflation pressures at the factory gate continued to moderate.

But key to investors will be September’s consumer price data, which is due Thursday. The Fed has raised its benchmark overnight interest rate by 525 basis points since March 2022 in an effort to bring down inflation.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 65.57 points, or 0.19%, to 33,804.87, the S&P 500 gained 18.71 points, or 0.43%, to 4,376.95 and the Nasdaq Composite added 96.83 points, or 0.71%, to 13,659.68.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.15% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.49%.

Third-quarter earnings essentially kick off this week for S&P 500 companies, with results from big banks including JPMorgan due Friday.

Global stocks have edged higher in recent sessions with U.S. bond yields – which underpin borrowing costs around the world – easing as Fed officials have suggested rate hikes may be over for now.

In Treasuries, prices rose on a safe-haven bid, and the U.S 10-year yield dropped to a two-week trough of 4.544% and was last down 7.6 basis points (bps).

In the foreign exchange market, the dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against six others, traded little changed after touching a two-week low of 105.550, while the euro rose to its highest since Sept. 25 at $1.0634.

Brent futures fell $1.83, or 2.1%, to settle at $85.82 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell $2.48, or 2.9%, to settle at $83.49.

In other commodities, spot gold rose 0.7% to $1,873.81 an ounce.

(Additional reporting by Herbert Lash in New York, Harry Robertson in London and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Deepa Babington)