Global stocks drifted lower Thursday as another round of strong U.S. economic data reinforced expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin to reduce its monetary stimulus this month.
Expectations that the Fed will decide to begin “tapering” its $85 billion in monthly asset purchases at its Dec. 18 meeting ratcheted up after the U.S. government reported that the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.6 percent in the third quarter, its fastest pace since the first quarter of 2012. The increase was up from the previous estimate of 2.8 percent and largely due to an inventory buildup despite softer consumption and investment measures.
A 23,000 fall in weekly U.S. jobless claims to 298,000 also added to the evidence that the U.S. economy is growing strongly and that the stimulus will be reduced. Whether those expectations remain intact could hinge on Friday’s official nonfarm payrolls report for November.
“Investors still want to see what the November payroll report contains,” said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co.
Earlier this year, fears of the stimulus withdrawal had caused jitters in the markets as the monetary injection has helped to shore up stocks for several years. Recently, though, the reaction has been more muted amid the realization that it’s predicated on an improving economic outlook.
In Europe, markets traded on the back of U.S. developments, especially after the European Central Bank and the Bank of England kept their monetary policies unchanged as anticipated.