Data released Friday on eurozone purchasing managers indexes—key indicators on the health of the manufacturing sector—came in below expectations, dragged down by weak performance in Germany and France. The U.S. equivalent is set to be released later in the day. The data adds to mounting signs of a slowing economy, with investors weighing its implications for corporate earnings and monetary policy.
“This confirms the softening data tone the market has been observing and central banks have been forced to take note of,” said Matt Cairns, strategist at Rabobank. The euro fell 0.6% against the dollar. The German 10-year bund yield declined and flirted with negative territory for the first time since October 2016, when the European economy was still emerging from the aftermath of the sovereign-debt crisis.
Earlier this week, Federal Reserve officials indicated they are unlikely to raise interest rates this year and may be nearly finished with the series of increases they began more than three years ago. On Wednesday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell suggested the central bank was likely to leave the policy rate unchanged for many months.
This change of tactic by the Fed has divided the market. For some, it is the latest sign that economic growth in the U.S. and around the world is slowing. For others, a more dovish Fed could prolong the bull market.
“The market is polarized: Half thinks we are in a bull market recovery and the other half thinks we are in a bear market rally,” said Eoin Murray, head of investment at asset manager Hermes. The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of 16 currencies, was up 0.3%. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell 2.498% from 2.537% Thursday. Yields move inversely to prices.
Late Thursday, European Union leaders allowed U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to postpone the Brexit deadline beyond next week, but warned Britain could still crash out of the bloc in mid-April. EU leaders decided that if the British Parliament approves a Brexit deal next week, the bloc would extend the Brexit deadline until May 22. If Mrs. May’s Brexit deal isn’t approved, the U.K. would have until April 12 to indicate what it wants to do next.
“This will reduce the cliff edge risk for next week but assuming Parliament won’t support May’s deal, the U.K. will within three weeks face a choice between a long extension or a no-deal Brexit,” Jim Reid, strategist at Deutsche Bank, said in a note to clients. The British pound was flat against the dollar, trading at $1.311. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng were up 0.1%. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was down 0.7%, while gold prices rose 0.3%.