Asian shares slipped to seven-week lows 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 0.9%, though trade was thinned by holidays in a number of countries.
Japan’s Nikkei fell 2.0% and touched its lowest since early January, while Chinese blue chips lost 0.9%.
Asian markets were already on the backfoot this week amid inflation worries and a tech sell-off on Wall Street, and nerves were further jangled 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 0.4%, while S&P 500 futures added 0.3%. But EUROSTOXX 50 futures were still catching up with overnight falls and lost 0.7%, while FTSE futures shed 0.5%.
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.”
BLACK MARK FOR BITCOIN
Investors reacted by pricing in an 80% chance of a Fed rate hike as early as December next year.
Yields on 10-year Treasuries steadied at 1.68%, having climbed 7 basis points overnight in the biggest daily rise in two months. The yield curve also steepened markedly to reflect the risk of rising inflation.
That was a shot in the arm for the dollar, which had been buckling under the weight of rapidly expanding U.S. budget and trade deficits. The euro retreated to $1.2078, leaving behind a 10-week peak at $1.2180.
The dollar stood at 109.66 yen, having hit a five-week top of 109.78 and well off this week’s low of 108.34. The dollar index hovered at 90.737, up from a 10-week trough of 89.979.
In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin steadied after sliding more than 10% when 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 was left at $1,818 an ounce and off a multiple-top around $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 68 cents at $68.64 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 68 cents to $65.40.
Editing by Sam Holmes & Shri Navaratnam