Oil, commodities tumble; stocks, dollar gain

LONDON - Oil and commodity prices tumbled on Tuesday as concerns grew that slowing global economic growth could reduce demand, while easing inflation concerns and better-than-expected European bank results lifted world shares.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 5 Aug 2008, 7:41 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:49 AM

The dollar hit a seven-week high against major currencies as investors bet that easing inflation pressures would enable other central banks to cut interest rates, narrowing yield differentials in the U.S. currency's favour.

Benchmark oil prices fell to a three-month low below $119 a barrel at one point, falling $28 from July's record highs.

Other commodity prices fell in tandem. Gold hit a six-week low, platinum dropped to six-month troughs and soybeans hit their weakest in three months.

"The sentiment is more bearish now than before as concern over slower U.S. economic growth is (weighing on) demand," said David Moore, commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

U.S. crude was down 1.5 percent at $119.54 a barrel. Gold fell to $882.10.

Tuesday's fall came after broader commodity prices posted their biggest monthly drop in at least 10 years in July.

"The last commodity sell-off of this magnitude in March 1980 unfortunately did little to the severe 1980 and 1981/1982 recessions," Lehman Brothers said in a note to clients.

"Nonetheless, this commodity sell-off may help corral the disconcerting inflation pulse of the past year and eventually allow central banks the luxury of again easing to help stimulate economic activity."

The market received fresh evidence that the economy is slowing down.

The euro zone's dominant services sector slid further into contraction in July, hitting a five-year low, while British manufacturing output fell for a fourth consecutive month in June and at the sharpest annual rate in 2-1/2 years.

Mixed effect on stocks

Tumbling commodities had a mixed effect on equities. While commodity shares such as ArcelorMittal and BP dropped, falling resource prices ease inflation pressures and lessen the burden for corporates and consumers.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index managed to rise 2 percent on the day. It got a boost after Standard Chartered beat analysts' forecast with a 31 percent jump in first-half profits as growth in Asia outpaced western economies.

Societe Generale posted a 63 percent fall in second-quarter net profit, smaller than many had feared.

MSCI main world equity index rose 0.1 percent on the day, having earlier hit a three-week low.

U.S. stock futures pointed to a firmer open on Wall Street later.

The dollar was up 0.3 percent against a basket of major currencies while the Australian dollar fell to a four-month low of US$0.9178 after the country's central bank opened the door for cutting interest rates.

The key event of the day is an interest rate decision by the Federal Reserve. The Fed is likely to leave interest rates on hold at 2.00 percent until December when investors expect the central bank to hike the cost of borrowing.

However, policymakers could decide to leave rates on hold for longer given easing price pressures and slowing growth.

"The tug-of-war between upside risks to inflation and downside risks to growth will persist in the coming quarters. In our opinion the growth outlook will remain too troublesome to allow the FOMC to hike interest rates anytime soon," Peter Possing Andersen, senior analyst at Danske Bank, said in a note.

Emerging sovereign spreads were unchanged while emerging stocks fell 0.9 percent.

The September Bund future rose 11 ticks on the day.

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