NEW YORK (Reuters) - Emerging market stocks sold off on Wednesday as investors fretted about inflation in the developing world while the U.S. dollar fell after remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pushed bond yields down.
The dollar fell against the euro after a strong auction of U.S. Treasury debt accelerated bearish sentiment in the wake of Bernanke’s comments, which indicated the U.S. central bank’s $600 billion bond-buying program remains intact.
“Bernanke is telling you that the Fed is not going to rush to raise rates, and that’s why the dollar sold off,” said David Woo, head of global rates and currencies research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.
The euro gained 0.72 percent at $1.3731, and the U.S. Dollar Index .DXY, a basket of major currencies, was down 0.52 percent.
Investors embraced government bonds, drawn by higher yields and encouraged by a 10-year U.S. Treasury note auction that apparently attracted record foreign demand.
The so-called indirect bid, which roughly correlates to demand from overseas investors, dominated the auction, taking 71.3 percent of the sale. The norm is about 44 percent, said Ian Lyngen, senior government bond strategist at CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Connecticut.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 20/32 in price to yield 3.66 percent.
Stocks in Tokyo were poised to open lower, with the March futures contract that trades in Chicago for the Nikkei 225 down 65 points at 10,630.
Investors dumped emerging market shares after Brazil said it will cut 50 billion reais ($30 billion) from its budget this year to slow surging inflation and an overheated economy. For details see:
The announcement came on the heels of China’s raising of interest rates on Tuesday to subdue stubbornly high inflation and curb its fast-expanding economy.
MSCI's emerging market index fell 1.5 percent, led by a 2.4 percent decline in Brazil's benchmark Bovespa index .BVSP Since the emerging market index peaked in mid-January at highs last seen in June 2008, it has declined more than 5 percent.
The slide in developing world assets contrasted with U.S. stocks, where the tech-rich Nasdaq and broad S&P 500 index fell. But the iconic Dow industrials eked out an eighth straight session of gains, lifted by a late-hour rally in Bank of America (BAC.N)
MSCI’s all-country world index .MIWD00000PUS is up about 4 percent so far this year, while the S&P 500 has gained about 5 percent since the beginning of 2011.
Investors expressed confidence that solid corporate earnings will spur further U.S. stock advances, but a recent string of lightly traded sessions raised worries that buying interest at these levels has dried up.
“We’ve had such a great run that we’re seeing some profit-taking even though there’s really no information out there that’s taking us down,” said Tom Wirth, senior investment officer for Chemung Canal Trust Co, which manages $1.5 billion in Elmira, New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed up 6.74 points, or 0.06 percent, at 12,239.89. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX fell 3.69 points, or 0.28 percent, at 1,320.88. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC slipped 7.98 points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,789.07.
Dow components Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) advanced after reporting strong quarterly sales. Disney was the strongest performer on the index, surging 5.3 percent to $43.36 and Coke gained 0.4 percent to $63.15.
Brent crude jumped nearly 2 percent to near $102 a barrel as the dollar fell and unrest in Egypt stoked supply worries, while high inventories pushed down U.S. crude and widened the spread between the two contracts to record levels.
The U.S. inventory builds helped push Brent’s premium over the U.S. crude futures to a record above $15 a barrel, surpassing the previous high of $13.06 on Tuesday.
In London, ICE March Brent settled $1.90 higher at $101.82 a barrel.
U.S. crude for March delivery ended 23 cents lower at $86.71 a barrel.
Gold was little changed as the market was underpinned by the dollar’s drop and Bernanke’s comment on bond-buying and the indication that rates will not rise any time soon.
U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled up $1.40 at $1,365.50.
Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica, Julie Haviv, Gene Ramos, Ellen Freilich and Frank Tang in New York; Writing by Herbert Lash; Editing by Dan Grebler