Stocks rise after Fed seeks to calm markets about rate hikes

World stock markets and U.S. futures rose Wednesday after a Federal Reserve governor said the central bank is still far from raising interest rates.

Expectations for stronger economic growth in coming months have fueled worries that interest rates will head higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was at 1.44% early Wednesday, having traded above 1.50% last week.

“It feels like we are in the eye of the storm,” analyst Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary. Investors have recently focused on selling high-priced technology shares but are also watching for policy changes as President Joe Biden’s $1.9 billion stimulus package heads into the Senate after narrowly passing in the House.

“How much overheating and inflation will the Biden fiscal stimulus generate remains at the top of virtually every market conversation,” Innes said.

Germany’s DAX rose 0.9% to 14,165 and the CAC 40 in Paris added 0.8% to 5,850. Britain’s FTSE 100 picked up 1% to 6,679 as the Treasury chief was expected to announce an extension to the furlough program that has helped millions avoid unemployment during the pandemic.

The future for the S&P 500 climbed 0.6% and that for the Dow industrials was 0.7% higher.

Higher interest rates make each $1 of profit that companies earn a little less valuable. That’s making Wall Street reconsider the value of technology stocks, in large part because their recent dominance left them looking even pricier than the rest of the market.

Treasury yields have risen above 1.50% recently with expectations for economic growth and inflation, up from about 0.9% at the beginning of the year. Such a rise makes borrowing more expensive for homebuyers, companies taking out loans and virtually everyone else. That can slow economic growth.

On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard sought to calm financial markets by emphasizing that the Fed, while generally optimistic about the economy, is still far from raising interest rates or reducing its $120 billion a month in asset purchases.

“We’ve got some distance to go to meet our goals,” of higher inflation and lower unemployment, Brainard said.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak on Thursday, and at the end of the week will be the government’s jobs report, which is typically the highlight economic report of every month. It also includes numbers for how much wages are rising across the economy, a key component of inflation.

In Asian trading, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 2.7% to 29,792.81. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 added 0.5% to 29,559.10, while the Kospi in Seoul picked up 1.3% to 3,082.99. The Shanghai Composite index advanced 2% to 3,576.90.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.8% to 6,818.00 after the government reported the economy grew at a 3.1% quarterly rate, but a minus 1.1% annual rate, in the fourth quarter of last year. The better than expected result was helped by consumer demand and public spending, analysts said. India’s Sensex rose 1.5% to 51,036.24.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil rose $1.14 to $60.89 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 89 cents on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, added $1.16 to $63.86 per barrel.

The dollar rose to 106.99 Japanese yen from 106.68 yen late Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.2064 from $1.2091.