LONDON/TOKYO: Global shares held steady while US Treasury yields hovered near multi-month lows on Friday, with markets looking to US consumer data as the next test of the Federal Reserve's dovish rates outlook.
Oil markets were on course for their biggest weekly drop since at least May as traders bet supply from OPEC producers could rise to meet an expected increase in demand as economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
How quickly that happens, though, is far from certain, with a resurgence in the infection rate across a number of countries, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia as the Delta variant continues to take hold.
"The spread of the more infectious Delta variant is the key emerging threat for the time being, with Covid-19 cases on the rise again at the global level and in most of the G7 economies," Deutsche Bank analyst Craig Nicol said in a note to clients.
MSCI's broadest gauge of global shares was flat in early European trading, broadly unchanged on the week, buoyed by early gains across most European markets, with Britain's FTSE 100 up 0.6 per cent.
That helped counter overnight weakness in Asia where MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.4 per cent, weighed down by a 0.8 per cent drop each in China's blue-chip index and Taiwanese shares.
The Asian weakness was in large part driven by lacklustre earnings from TSMC, Asia's biggest firm by market capitalisation outside China, which saw its shares fall almost 4 per cent.
Looking ahead, US stock futures pointed to a marginally higher open, up around 0.1 per cent.
Markets continue to be supported by ultra-easy monetary policy from most of the world's leading central banks, yet are skittish given the coronavirus threat and concern policymaker support could be yanked too early if inflation fears rise.
Against that backdrop, all eyes continue to be trained on the US Federal Reserve for any signs that its dovish policy could be about to change.
This week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that rising inflation is likely to be transitory and the US central bank would continue to support the economy.
Yet with policymakers being guided by the data, all eyes will turn later on Friday to the latest set of US retail sales data for fresh clues to the strength of the recovery, with the June print expected to show a rise after a fall in May.
Ahead of that, yields on US 10-year Treasuries edged off lows to trade up 2.3 basis points at 1.320 per cent, albeit still near the five-month low of 1.250 per cent touched last week.
In foreign exchange, major currencies were little changed on the day but the dollar headed for its best weekly gain in about a month. It was last up 0.1 per cent against a basket of major peers.
"Delta variants are raging in countries where vaccination is limited. In a way, the dollar and US assets appear to be bought as a hedge against that," said Arihiro Nagata, general manager of global investment at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.
Gold on the other hand reached a one-month high of $1,834.3 per ounce before pulling back to trade down 0.4 per cent at $1,822.6, yet remains on course for a fourth straight weekly gain on the back of the dovish Fed.
Oil prices were heading for their biggest weekly drop since at least May as expectations of more supplies spooked investors, with OPEC likely to add output to meet a potential revival in demand as more countries recover from the pandemic. US crude futures fell 22 cents to $71.43 per barrel , near last week's low of $70.76. Brent futures slipped 20 cents to $73.27 per barrel. - AFP