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Asian shares spooked by US inflation alarm, yield jump

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Asian shares faced a third day of losses on Thursday after a shocking rise in U.S. inflation bludgeoned Wall Street and sent bond yields surging on worries the Federal Reserve might have to move early on tightening.

FILE PHOTO: A man looks at stock market monitors in Taiwan
FILE PHOTO: A man looks at stock market monitors in Taipei January 22, 2008. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

(Updated: )

SYDNEY: Asian shares faced a third day of losses on Thursday after a shocking rise in U.S. inflation bludgeoned Wall Street and sent bond yields surging on worries the Federal Reserve might have to move early on tightening.

“Higher inflation is a definite negative for equities, given the likely rates response,” said Deutsche Bank macro strategist Alan Ruskin.

“The more nominal GDP gains are dominated by higher inflation, especially wage inflation, the more the possible squeeze on profit margins. It plays to a more choppy, less bullish equity bias.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.4per cent in early trade, though liquidity was thinned by holidays in a number of countries.

Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.8per cent to the lowest since early January, while South Korea shed 1.1per cent.

Asian markets had already been spooked on Wednesday when Taiwan stocks tumbled on fears the island could face a partial lockdown amid an outbreak of the virus.

Nasdaq futures were trying to rally with a gain of 0.3per cent, while S&P 500 futures also added 0.3per cent.

Wall Street was blindsided when data showed U.S. consumer prices jumped by the most in nearly 12 years in April as booming demand amid a reopening economy met supply constraints at home and abroad.

The jump was largely due to outsized increases in airfares, used cars and lodging costs, which were all driven by the pandemic and likely transitory.

Fed officials were quick to play down the impact of one month’s numbers, with vice chair Richard Clarida saying stimulus would still be needed for “some time”.

“It likely would take a very strong May jobs report, with sizable upward revisions to March and especially April, to get the Fed to start a discussion about tapering at its June meeting,” said JPMorgan economist Michael S. Hanson.

“We continue to expect the Fed to begin scaling back its pace of asset purchases early next year.”

Investors reacted by pricing in an 80per cent chance of a Fed rate hike as early as December next year.

Yields on 10-year Treasuries surged over 7 basis points to 1.695per cent, the biggest daily rise in two months, the yield curve steepened markedly.

That was a shot in the arm for the dollar, which had been buckling under the weight of expanding U.S. budget and trade deficits. The euro rapidly retreated to US$1.2072, leaving behind a 10-week peak at US$1.2180.

The dollar jumped to a five-week top of 109.74 yens, well off this week’s low of 108.34. The dollar index bounced to 90.777 from a 10-week trough of 89.979.

In the crypto currency space, Bitcoin slid after Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla Inc has suspended the use of bitcoin to purchase its vehicles.

The rise in yields and the dollar pressured gold, which eased to US$1,814 an ounce and away from a multiple-top around US$1,845.

Oil prices backed away from two-month highs, hit after U.S. crude exports plunged and the International Energy Agency (IEA) said demand was already outstripping supply.

Brent was off 54 cents at US$68.78 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 53 cents to US$65.55.

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

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