Investing.com – Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Thursday, Dec. 20:
1. Less Dovish Fed Spooks Markets
The Federal Reserve raised rates and kept most of its guidance for additional hikes over the next two years, spooking markets that were hoping for a more dovish policy outlook.
The U.S. central bank hiked interest rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday, its fourth increase this year, while forecasting two more rate hikes for 2019, compared to the three projected in September.
Investors had been hoping for more of a dovish message from the Fed on rates, with some even betting it may halt its rate increases altogether as risks to the U.S. economy mount.
Traders also fretted over comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who said in a news conference after the release of the policy statement that the U.S. central bank would continue trimming its balance sheet by $50 billion each month.
Markets remain skeptical however, with interest rate futures showing traders are currently betting the Fed won’t raise rates at all next year.
Read more: Fed’s Powell Struggles To Defend Rate Hike That Was Already Baked In: Darrell Delamaide
2. U.S. Futures Point to Lower Open
U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open, indicating that Wall Street’s three major indexes were set to extend a Fed-related selloff from a day earlier.
At 5:47 AM ET (10:47 GMT), the blue-chip Dow futures were down 49 points, or around 0.2%, the S&P 500 futures fell 5 points, or about 0.2%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a drop of 6 points, or roughly 0.1%.
The move in premarket comes after another volatile session on Wednesday, which saw the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite all notch new closing and intraday lows for 2018.
The Dow and S&P 500, which are both in corrections, are on track for their worst December performance since the Great Depression in 1931, down more than 8% and 9%, respectively, this month.
Elsewhere, European shares were down sharply, with many of the major bourses in the region hitting their lowest levels since Dec. 2016.
Earlier, Asian shares ended broadly lower, with Japan’s Nikkei plunging almost 3% to end at its worst level since Sept. 2017.
3. U.S. Dollar Sinks
Away from equities, the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a basket of six major currencies, was down 0.8% at 95.74, its worst level since Nov. 7.
The greenback was weaker against the yen, with USD/JPY losing 0.67% to trade at 111.72, its lowest level since Oct. 26. In a widely expected decision, the Bank of Japan kept rates steady, maintaining its ultra-loose monetary settings.
Meanwhile, in the bond market, U.S. Treasury yields inched lower, with the benchmark 10-year note slipping to 2.748%, the lowest level since April, before bouncing back to 2.760%.
The yield on U.S. government bonds with 2-year maturities dipped to 2.646%. It was last at 2.654%.
On the data front, there will be weekly jobless claims as well as the Philly Fed manufacturing survey both due at 8:30AM ET (13:30 GMT).
4. Oil Resumes Selloff
In commodities, oil prices plunged, resuming declines seen earlier in the week amid worries about oversupply and the outlook for the global economy.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down $1.55, or roughly 4.1%, at $46.20 a barrel, not far from a 15-month low touched on Tuesday.
International Brent crude oil futures sank $2.33, or about 4.1%, to $54.91 per barrel.
Crude oil has lost over a third of its value since October in what has become one of the biggest declines since a price collapse in 2014, with surging supply and the specter of faltering demand scaring off investors.
5. Bank of England Policy Announcement
The Bank of England is widely expected to keep interest rates on hold and say it is sticking to its plan to raise them gradually when it concludes its final policy meeting of the year.
A decision is due at 7:00AM ET (12:00 GMT).
The BoE has raised interest rates twice since November 2017 and expects to continue pushing them up gradually, assuming Britain’s departure from the European Union goes smoothly.
With less than four months until Britain leaves the EU, the government has yet to agree a divorce deal with Brussels, as Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party remains split on how close the country should remain to the bloc.
The pound was higher, with GBP/USD advancing 0.7% to 1.2700.
— Reuters contributed to this report