Stocks mixed as Wall St eyes elevated Treasury yields, earnings

FILE PHOTO: A street sign for Wall Street is seen in the financial district in New York

By Lawrence Delevingne and Herbert Lash

(Reuters) -The benchmark U.S. Treasury yield on Monday pulled back after crossing 5% - a 16-year high - but stock indices were mixed and oil slipped amid continued fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Higher bond yields and the risk of a wider Mideast conflict soured investor sentiment at the start of a week full of major corporate earnings and key inflation data. A gauge of global equity markets fell to an almost seven-month low on the outlook.

The 10-year Treasury yield crossed just above 5% but then pulled back, falling to 4.850%. The recent surge in yields, which move inversely to prices, has been driven by an increase in government debt and supply of bonds around the world, as economic uncertainty leads investors to demand a greater premium to hold longer-dated bonds. [US/]

A steepening of the yield curve, where the 10-year's yield is rising and closing in on the higher two-year yield, suggest an economic slowdown in 2024, said Tom di Galoma, managing director and co-head of global rates trading at BTIG in New York.

"We're going to see a steeper yield curve and that's going to put pressure on long-term rates," di Galoma added. "In the next six to nine months we'll see a fairly extensive economic slowdown and that's what the market's pricing in."

The difference between yields on two- and 10-year notes, which shows the yield curve remains inverted with the short-end higher than longer-dated securities, was at -21.7 basis points.

Also roiling markets was the closing price of the S&P 500 slipping under its 200-day moving average on Friday, di Galoma said.

"That's a signal that equity markets are probably headed lower due to the slowdown and other geopolitical risks," di Galoma said in reference to the Mideast conflict.

MSCI's gauge of equity performance across the globe shed 0.16%, just off a low last seen in late March, while the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.13%.

WALL STREET STOCKS

On Wall Street, major stock indices were mixed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.58%, the S&P 500 lost 0.17% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.27%. Futures imply that the Fed is done with tightening this cycle and are flirting with the chance of a quarter-point cut roughly by July 2024.

The jump in yields has also challenged equity valuations, dragging most major indexes lower last week, while the VIX "fear index" of U.S. stock market volatility hit its highest since March.

From an economic perspective, 5% is just another number but it resonates with investors, said Daiwa Capital chief economist Chris Scicluna.

"I don't think it's a tipping point, but it's a reminder of the record tightening we've had," Scicluna said, adding that it also shows the Fed "can't be entirely sure quite how much of that tightening so far has already been transmitted to the real economy and how much more is to come."

The Middle East conflict was high on investors' minds as Israeli aircraft struck southern Lebanon overnight and Israeli troops and Palestinians clashed in the occupied West Bank.

"While the flight-to-safety trade in long-term Treasuries eroded after a couple of days, it may return with greater escalation in the Middle East," BMO Wealth Management Chief Investment Officer Yung-Yu Ma said in an email. "Geopolitical risk remains very high."

GROWTH SURGE

Major companies including Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon and Meta Platforms all report earnings this week.

Profits should be supported by the strength of consumer demand, with figures on U.S. gross domestic product this week expected to show annualized growth of a heady 4.2% in the third quarter, and nominal annualized growth possibly as high as 7%.

This U.S. outperformance has underpinned the dollar of late, although it dipped around 0.5% on Monday.

Yields in Japan were also on the rise on speculation the Bank of Japan was discussing a further tweak to its yield curve control policy, which might be announced at its policy meeting on Oct. 31. The dollar was last trading at 149.64 yen, just below its recent peak of 150.16.

The euro rose to $1.0665, while the Swiss franc, which has benefited from a flight to safety over the past couple of weeks, held steady at 0.8912 per dollar.

The ECB meets later this week and is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at 4%. Investors will be looking for any kind of signal from ECB President Christine Lagarde about how the rise in global bond yields might affect the outlook for euro zone monetary policy.

Gold, which hit its highest since May last week thanks also to safe-haven inflows, slipped around about 0.4% to $1,972 an ounce. [GOL/]

Oil prices dropped as conflict around Israel continued, with Brent crude down about 2% at $90.24 a barrel, though the bigger news in oil markets was that Chevron said it agreed to buy Hess for $53 billion in stock.

(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne in Boston and Herbert Lash in New York; Additional reporting by Aln John and Amanda Cooper in London, and Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Alison Williams, Will Dunham, David Holmes and David Evans)