European stocks were mixed on Wednesday as UK inflation surged past the Bank of England (BoE) benchmark and investors awaited the US Federal Reserve interest rate announcement later in the day.
The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) pared back some losses to trade 0.2% up in afternoon trade in London. The index was dragged lower by commodity stocks earlier in the day as China put miners under pressure after announcing that it would release metal reserves.
Rio Tinto (RIO.L) declined as much as 0.9% and was trading 0.7% lower. Anglo American (AAL.L) dropped 2% and Antofagasta (ANTO.L) was down 1.5%, Glencore (GLEN.L) crashed 2.8% and Evraz (EVR.L) declined 1.5%. BHP Group (BHP.L) also lost ground, dropping 1.1%.
It comes after official figures showed on Wednesday that the cost of living rose to the highest level since 2019 in May. According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, the UK's consumer price index (CPI) jumped to 2.1%, above the 2% BoE target. Analysts expected it to rise to 1.8%, from April's 1.5%.
Transport made the largest annual upward contribution to inflation. Rising prices for fuels, clothing, recreational goods such as games and recording media and meals pushed the rate higher on a monthly basis, rising 0.5% in May alone.
Watch: What is inflation and why is it important?
"The Bank of England was always expecting inflation to overshoot its target this spring, but it has taken the position that this is a short-term blip caused by rock-bottom prices a year earlier, and as soon as they naturally fall out of the figures, inflation will drop away again," said Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. "It isn’t worried by the rise and it isn’t expecting to raise interest rates in the immediate future to bring it back down again."
Sterling rose sharply following the news – it was up 0.3% against the euro to €1.1646 (GBPEUR=X) just after 8AM in London and up 0.3% against the dollar to $1.4118 (GBPUSD=X).
Read more: Pound rises as soaring UK inflation puts pressure on the BoE to act
Elsewhere on the continent, France’s CAC (^FCHI) was up 0.2%, and the DAX (^GDAXI) was trading 0.1% lower in Germany.
Oil prices were rallying as investors bet on a looming supply crunch, with both benchmarks rising to record highs in recent days after hitting rock bottom last year. Crude (CL=F) was trading up 0.6% to $72.52 (£51.36) and Brent (BZ=F) was also up 0.6% to $74.41 at around 8:30AM in London.
Across the Atlantic, US stocks opened mixed as investors kept a close tab on whether the Federal Reserve will stick with its dovish stance as optimism in America’s economy grows, and for any hint of chair Jerome Powell paring back the bond-buying programme.
Wall Street’s blue-chip S&P 500 (^GSPC) was flat after the opening bell on Wednesday, the Dow Jones (^DJI) fell over 0.1%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq (^IXIC) curbed the trending rising 0.3%.
The Fed is back in the fray and its two-day monetary policy meeting is the big event that could indicate whether the US central bank will tweak its interest rates outlook. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) kicked off its meeting on Tuesday and Powell is expected to make concluding remarks on Wednesday.
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Economic indicators across the board have shown signs of improvement, most notably the US vaccination push, which reduced mortality rates. This comes against a backdrop of falling jobless claims, surging purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data and a spike in non-farm payrolls.
While jobless claims have dropped to pandemic lows, the headline non-farm figure has repeatedly failed to match estimates in the last few months. This is important as Powell said he needs to see a "string of strong jobs reports" to consider tapering the Fed’s current stimulus programme.
"That topic of transitory inflation will be key as we look towards the FOMC meeting today, with the Fed looking unlikely to move the dials this time around," said Joshua Mahoney, senior market analyst at IG. "Instead, there is likely to be a focus on the latest dot plot and inflation projections, alongside questions around to what degree the Fed have discussed tapering in forthcoming meetings."
Dot plot is the Fed's guidance for how they expect to raise rates in the future.
Asian stocks struggled overnight. The Nikkei (^N225) fell 0.5% in Japan after figures showed the country's trade surplus jumped 49.6% last month, compared with the year before.
Meanwhile, the Hang Seng (^HSI) fell 0.7% and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) closed the session just over 1% lower.
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