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Stock Rally Loses Steam in Asia as U.S. Inflation Test Looms

  • CPI seen at multi-year highs as market gauges Fed rate hike pace
  • Global bond yields ease after surge to multi-year peaks
  • Currencies in holding pattern, gold hovers near two-week top

TOKYO, Feb 10 (Reuters) - A tech-fuelled global stocks rally cooled in Asia on Thursday as investors took a more cautious posture amid uncertainties around the outlook for inflation and interest rates.

World bond yields continued to ease from multi-year highs and the dollar trod water ahead of the closely watched U.S. inflation report due later in the day that should offer new clues on the pace of Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.

The performance in Asian stocks was sharply divided between Chinese equities and the rest of the region.

Chinese blue chips lost 0.75% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng retreated 0.41%, as investors took profits and worries about U.S. sanctions continued to weigh on sentiment.

Taiwan's benchmark, however, jumped 0.80%, while Japan's blue-chip Nikkei was 0.31% higher.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares added 0.33%.

U.S. futures pointed to a lower open, indicating a 0.28% retreat for the Nasdaq and a 0.23% decline for the S&P , after Big Tech lifted Wall Street to solid gains overnight.

European futures were mixed, signaling a 0.04% easing for Britain's FTSE but a 0.06% increase for Germany's DAX .

"We don't know how many U.S. rate hikes there are going to be this year, and I don't think the Fed knows either, and that's getting markets a little bit nervous, to say the least," said Kyle Rodda, a market analyst at IG Australia.

"Any kind of data surprise is going to inflame that nervousness, and that's leading to the choppiness that we're seeing in markets."

Long-term bond yields continued Wednesday's retreat, with the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield slipping back to 1.9268% in Tokyo on Thursday from a near 2-1/2-year peak on Tuesday. Its German counterpart dipped from a three-year high overnight. GOVD/EUR

"It was a more positive session for global bonds, with European bond yields taking a breather from their seemingly relentless recent rise," Damien McColough, head of rates strategy at Westpac, wrote in a client note.

"Even so, global bond yields have entered a bear phase and investors are likely to demand a higher premium to invest given inflation and policy risks ... so we remain better tactical sellers."

Australia's 10-year benchmark yield slipped to 2.089% on Thursday from as high as 2.157% in the previous session, a near three-year peak.

Japan's benchmark 10-year yield , however, renewed a six-year peak at 0.225% amid speculation that more hawkish monetary tightening globally could force some action from the Bank of Japan.

The Fed is broadly expected to begin raising rates at its March meeting although there is no clarity about the pace of tightening.

Money markets are certain of at least a quarter point Fed hike next month, and give 1-in-4 odds of a half point increase.

Data due later on Thursday is expected to show U.S. consumer inflation racing at a 7%-plus annualised clip, a level reminiscent of the inflation shocks of the 1970s and 1980s.

Currencies were largely in a holding pattern ahead of that release, with the dollar index steady at 95.556 after bouncing off a two-week low of 95.136 on Friday.

One euro bought $1.1425 and the yen traded at 115.605 per dollar .

The combination of a soft dollar and lower bond yields put some shine on gold , which held close to a two-week high, last changing hands at around $1,834 an ounce.

Crude oil eased, with U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures down 20 cents to $89.46 a barrel, while Brent crude futures lost 42 cents to $91.13 a barrel.

Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Sam Holmes

Source: Reuters

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