Wall Street fear lingers as UK steps in to calm bonds



(Updates with U.S. market open)

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U.S. stocks little changed after hitting new lows Tuesday

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Global stocks pare some losses, UK gilts roar higher

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Bank of England says will step into the bond market

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Oil prices up on Hurricane Ian cuts

By Lawrence Delevingne and Amanda Cooper

Sept 28 (Reuters) - U.S. and global equities did little on Wednesday to rebound from fresh lows, even as the Bank of England said it would step into the bond market to stem a damaging rise in borrowing costs, an attempt to dampen investors fears of contagion across the financial system.

The BoE said it would temporarily buy long-dated bonds - linked most closely to workers' pensions and home loans - in light of a surge in 30-year UK bond yields above 5%, their highest since 2002.

Sterling, which hit record lows against the dollar on Monday, whipsawed in volatile trade, while gilt prices roared higher, fuelled by the central bank's commitment to postpone a planned sale aimed at reducing the bonds it bought during the depths of the pandemic.

Investors have been rattled in the last week in particular by soaring bond yields, as central bankers have raced to raise interest rates to contain red-hot inflation before it tips the global economy into recession.

The dollar, the ultimate safe-haven in times of market turmoil, rose to its highest in two decades, spurred on by yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury US10YT=TWEB approaching 4.0% for the first time since 2008. FEDWATCH

The pound briefly fell by as much as 1% after the BoE's announcement, while UK stocks cut losses, which in turn helped the broader European equity market avoid deeper falls.

"The surge in bond yields threatens the housing market and broader economy. But the BoE still has to raise the policy rate," Kenneth Broux, Societe Generale currency strategist, said.

"You also have the contagion element. The IMF and the U.S. Treasury waded in yesterday in fear of global contagion from gilts to other markets," he said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and ratings agency Moody's criticised Britain's new economic strategy announced on Friday, which has sparked a collapse in the value of British assets.

The MSCI All-World index .MIWD00000PUS was last down 0.4%, having pulled off a session trough that marked its lowest since November 2020. It is heading for a 9% drop in September - its biggest monthly decline since March 2020's 13% fall.

In Europe, the STOXX 600 .STOXX pared losses to trade down just 0.5% on the day, having fallen earlier by as much as 2%. The FTSE 100 .FTSE was down 0.3% on the day.

Wall Street opened slightly lower, with the S&P 500 Index .SPX down about 0.1%, after it fell to a two year low on Tuesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC were virtually flat.

Weighing on growth stocks was Apple Inc AAPL.O , which was down about 4% on a report the tech giant was dropping its plans to boost production of the latest model of its flagship iPhone.

European government bonds got a lift from the surge in the value of UK gilts.

"The Bank of England is restoring some calm to the markets. Finally there is a central bank that is moving in the right direction. Italy's BTPs and German Bunds have recovered and equities are above lows as well," said Carlo Franchini, head of institutional clients at Banca Ifigest in Milan.

KEEP CALM AND DON'T BUY STERLING

At the heart of this week's sell-off across global markets is the British government's so-called "mini-budget" last week that announced a raft of tax cuts and little in the way of detail as to how those would be funded.

Gilt prices have plunged and the pound has hit record lows as a result.

Sterling was last down 0.8% at $1.0655 GBP=D3 , still above Monday's record trough of $1.0327 but set for its biggest monthly slide since the Brexit vote in June 2016.

Strategists at Amundi, Europe's largest asset manager, said earlier on Wednesday they believed UK assets were in for more losses, as the UK's fiscal credibility remained on the line.

"We believe risks remain tilted to the downside – given how much is already priced-in, less aggressive signalling from the BoE will accelerate the move to below parity (for sterling/dollar), in our view," strategists led by Laurent Crosnier, global head of FX, wrote, recommending investors avoid pounds.

The safe-haven dollar has been a major beneficiary from the rout in sterling, rising to a fresh 20-year peak of 114.780 =USD against a basket of currencies.

The euro fell for a sixth straight day, dropping 0.1% to $0.9585 EUR=EBS , narrowly off last week's 20-year low of $0.9528.

Oil prices rose on Wednesday in U.S. trading hours as production cuts caused by Hurricane Ian outweighed downward pressure from a strengthening dollar and expected U.S. crude stockpile builds. U.S. crude CLc1 rose 1.24% to $79.47 per barrel and Brent LCOc1 was at $86.95, up 0.79% on the day.

Spot gold XAU= added 0.4% to $1,635.39 an ounce. U.S. gold futures GCc1 fell 0.30% to $1,621.80 an ounce.



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Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne in Boston and Amanada Cooper
in London. Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney.
Editing by Mark Potter



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