Asian shares down as U.S. inflation revives taper jitters
Asian shares fell on Wednesday after data showing the biggest jump in U.S. inflation in 13 years fuelled investor expectations that the Federal Reserve could exit pandemic-era stimulus earlier than previously thought.
The U.S. consumer price index jumped 0.9% in June, the Labor Department said on Tuesday. That was above market expectations and the largest gain since June 2008.
Global shares have rallied in recent weeks, sending MSCI’s broadest gauge of global stocks to a record high on Tuesday, as investors bet on a global economic recovery that is just weak enough to permit central banks to retain a dovish policy.
Ruffling a complacent market, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) on Wednesday unexpectedly announced it would end its bond purchase programme from next week, sending the Kiwi dollar sharply higher as markets bet that a rate hike is now imminent.
Shares in Europe were set for a lower open on Wednesday as investors reassessed the policy outlook.
Pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures were last down 0.26%, while German DAX futures fell 0.34% and France’s CAC 40 futures slipped 0.33%.
FTSE futures lost 0.27%.
“Against the background of higher, longer U.S. inflation, a taper coming earlier seems to be the likely direction of travel as far as policy goes,” said Rob Carnell, ING’s Asia-Pacfic head of research.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.24%, as Chinese blue-chips fell 1.08%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.7% and Seoul’s Kospi lost 0.21%.
Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.38%.
Investors are keeping a close eye on the semi-annual testimony of Fed Chair Jerome Powell to Congress on Wednesday and Thursday for more clues on whether the Fed will take more aggressive steps to halt rising inflation. Powell’s testimony comes as the Biden administration continues to push for fiscal stimulus to boost the U.S. economy.
Democrats on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee late on Tuesday reached an agreement on a $3.5 trillion infrastructure investment plan that they aim to include in a budget resolution to be debated later this summer.
Meanwhile in Asia, China is due to release second-quarter economic growth data on Thursday, the same day a cut to banks’ reserve requirements is set to take effect, releasing 1 trillion yuan ($154.47 billion) to help bolster an unbalanced economic recovery.
Economists in a Reuters poll expected China’s economic growth to have slowed in the second quarter, as higher raw material costs hurt factories and new COVID-19 outbreaks weighed on consumer spending.
China’s premier said on Tuesday that the country will take “comprehensive measures” to ease rising commodity prices.
On Wall Street overnight, stocks at first took the CPI data in stride, bidding up technology stocks that typically thrive with low interest rates, but major indexes ultimately closed lower.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.31% to 34,888.79, the S&P 500 lost 0.35% to 4,369.21 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.38% to 14,677.65.
A $24 billion auction of 30-year Treasury bonds reflected investor jitters as they were sold to yield 2.00%, more than two basis points above where the debt had traded before the auction.
Bond yields pulled back on Wednesday after jumping across the curve a day earlier on the inflation data.
The 30-year yield edged down to 2.0234% from a close of 2.037%, while the benchmark 10-year yield slipped to 1.3963% from a close of 1.415% on Tuesday.
The policy-sensitive two-year yield was at 0.253% from a close of 0.255%.
In the currency market, the safe-haven yen strengthened, with the dollar dropping 0.14% against the Japanese unit to 110.45. The euro rose 0.14% to $1.1791 after the greenback earlier touched a three-month high against the single currency.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies of other major trading partners, nudged down 0.15% to 92.660 after earlier rising as high as 92.832 – just below the 92.844 level reached last week for the first time since April 5.
The New Zealand dollar shot up 1.14% after the RBNZ announcement on ending asset purchases.
Oil prices steadied after data showed that China’s first-half crude imports dropped 3% from January to June versus a year earlier. They had surged more than 2% on Tuesday after the International Energy Agency said the market should expect tighter supply due to disagreements among major producers.
U.S. crude dipped 0.25% to $75.06 a barrel and global benchmark Brent crude fell 0.16% to $76.37 per barrel.
Spot gold rose 0.37% to $1,814.04 per ounce as the dollar and U.S. yields dipped.