Global shares rise, but surging commodities and bond yields feed concern over inflation

Global equities rose on Monday, but the mood among investors was cautious, as surging commodity prices and government bond yields continued to fan fears of a damaging rise in inflation, just as the world economy is starting to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Futures on the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones fell between 0.7% and 1.0%, while those on the technology-heavy Nasdaq 100 dropped by nearly 1.5%, pointing to a weak start to trade later in the day.

The benchmark indices have all hit record highs this month, thanks to the promise of more US government stimulus, as well as an acceleration in the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations.

But these same factors have ignited a rally in commodities, sending the price of economically sensitive materials such as copper and nickel to multi-year highs, while the cost of lumber has hit all-time peaks.

Government bond yields, particularly in the United States, are surging, as their price falls. The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note is around 1.37%, its highest in a year, having doubled in the space of six months.

More pressingly for risk assets has been the pick up in so-called real yields, which strip out the effects of inflation. In the last month alone, 10-year real yields have risen by around a quarter of a percentage point and is one of the indicators that has needled some of the early-2021 euphoria among equity investors.

US lawmakers will open debate on President Joe Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan act this week. Meanwhile, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell will deliver testimony to the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees.

"It would seem out of character for Powell to deliver a hawkish spin, especially given this back up in real yields and a repricing of the Fed (albeit small) in recent times. So soothing words for markets seems likely but the inflation fears are unlikely to go away whatever he says," Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid said.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 was down 1.2%, while London's FTSE 100 fell 1.1% and Frankfurt's DAX lost 1.3%. Overnight in Asia, the picture was similarly downbeat. The Shanghai Composite and the Hang Seng fell 1.4%, while Seoul's KOSPI fell 1.1%.

"Investors are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is very long. Despite the significant progress made since the outbreak of the pandemic, concerns about new, potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variants persist," Axi strategist Milan Cutkovic said.

"Market participants are increasingly looking at the bond market. Rising yields threaten to slow the stock market rally down," Cutkovic added. Oil marched higher, boosted by a winter storm in Texas that has knocked out around 40% of total US crude supply. Brent crude futures briefly traded above $65 a barrel for the first time since last January and were last up 0.75% at $62.61 a barrel. WTI crude, which has gained 14% this month, was up 0.7% at $59.62 a barrel.

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