BoE set for hike, Fed to get new head, trillion-dollar Apple?

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[November 02, 2017]   By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - Traders were bracing on Thursday for landmark events including the Bank of England's first rate hike since 2007 and the unveiling of a new Fed chief as well as results from Apple as it looks to become the world's first $1 trillion company.

The British central bank is widely expected to announce a 25 basis point rise in interest rates from record lows at 1200 GMT, even though economic growth appears weaker than before any increase in borrowing costs in the past 20 years.

With a hike largely priced in, sterling <GBP=> was barely changed against a marginally weaker dollar <.DXY>.

European government bond yields inched up while stocks in the region edged back <.FTEU3> after hitting two-year highs on Wednesday. [.EU]

"The interesting thing about the BoE is the vote and the size of the majority, and secondly the context around that which we will get from the inflation report," said JPMorgan Asset Management's International CIO of fixed income Nick Gartside.

"What those two things will point to is whether it is a one-off move or is indeed the start of a mini-hiking cycle. Our sense at the moment is that it is the start of a mini-hiking cycle."

The dollar meanwhile gave up some of the gains that have lifted it to a 3-1/2 month high this week. [/FRX]

The Federal Reserve bolstered bets on a third U.S. rate hike of the year on Wednesday, but the focus is now on delayed tax cut plans due later and Donald Trump's expected nomination of Jerome Powell to replace Janet Yellen to lead the central bank.

Powell is a current policymaker and is seen by Fed followers as a Yellen-style pragmatist and less likely to jack up interest rates than some of the other candidates rumored to have been in the running.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, slipped 0.2 percent to 94.533 as it pulled back 0.3 percent against the yen to 113.89 and $1.1655per euro.

Rising interest rates were also in focus in central Europe where the world's best performing mainstream currency -- the Czech crown -- was awaiting what is expected to be the second hike there in four months.

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Workers stand on steps opposite the Bank of England in the City of London, Britain November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Having had a currency peg removed earlier in the year, the crown is up more than 16 percent against the dollar in 2017 and at a four-year high against the euro.


Results due later from tech titan Apple were also in focus for stocks traders who have seen MSCI's 47-country 'All World' index notch its latest batch of record highs this week.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook quashed concerns recently about muted demand for the iPhone X, which is due for release on Friday, saying pre-orders for the 10th anniversary smartphone were "off the charts", but analysts will watching closely.

Expectations that many users are on the verge of upgrading from older iPhones have also sent Apple's stock to record highs, pushing it closer to becoming the first publicly listed company with a stock market value above $1 trillion.

"Apple is taking the iPhone franchise to a whole new level with the iPhone X, pushing the company deep into the ultra-luxury smartphone market," Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White wrote in a note to clients.

Commodities appear to be back in boom mode although crude oil futures which have roared higher over the last month dipped for a second day, with Brent crude <LCOc1> down 10 cents at $60.56 per barrel and U.S. crude <CLc1> down 1 cent at $54.29.

Metals traders were also locking in profits, having seen the likes of copper and nickel surge to a two-year high and aluminum to a more than five-year high this week. [MET/L]

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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