A major shift already under way was a revival in demand for sovereign bonds, a favored hedge against deflation. Yields on 10-year US Treasury notes were at their lowest in two weeks at 1.777 percent, a notable rally from last week's top of 1.94 percent. The equivalent yield in Australia has plunged no less than 31 basis points in the past week as record-low core inflation forced the central bank to cut its cash rate to an all-time low. The rush to bonds has left equities stranded.
The Dow ended Wednesday down 0.56 percent, while the S&P 500 eased 0.59 percent and the Nasdaq 0.79 percent. The pan-regional FTSEurofirst 300 index fell 1.2 percent to its lowest close in nearly four weeks. A Mixed Bag Wall Street slipped even as data showed the vast US services sector expanded in April as new orders and employment accelerated, offering hope economic growth would rebound after a sluggish first quarter. Yet other figures showed private employers hired the fewest workers in three years, sparking concerns the all-important payrolls report might also disappoint.
Friday's jobs figures are forecast to show a solid gain of 202,000 in April with unemployment steady at 5 percent but then there is difference between a forecast and actual. A weak outcome could push back the timing of the Federal Reserve's next hike in rates and put fresh pressure on the dollar. The US currency has steadied in the last couple of days having taken a beating against the yen and euro. The dollar was holding at 107.14 yen early Thursday, above the recent 18-month trough of 105.55 but far away from last week's peak of 111.88. The euro exchanged at USD 1.1487, having been as high as USD 1.1614 this week from a low of USD 1.1213 in April. The dollar Index was all but flat at 93.231. In commodity markets, industrial metals such as copper and iron ore were nursing losses, though oil bounced in early Asian trade. Traders said the gains could be linked to an uncontrolled wildfire near Canada's oil sands region that was reducing production as well as the uncertainity of Libyan oil. Brent crude LCOc1 was quoted 73 cents higher at USD 45.31 a barrel, while US crude CLc1 added 75 cents to USD 44.53.