Stabilisation signs emerge after inflation palpitations

A man looks at stock market monitors in Taipei January 22, 2008. REUTERS/Nicky Loh/File Photo

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  • Strongest U.S. inflation in nearly 40 years taken in stride
  • China lending data spurs policy easing expectation
  • Dollar trades below key support level

LONDON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Jittery global financial markets saw signs of stabilisation on Thursday, with major equity bourses and bond yields holding their ground and the dollar wilting after the highest U.S. inflation reading in nearly 40 years.

The 7% year-on-year U.S. consumer price inflation reading was the highest since 1982, but after weeks of Federal Reserve officials talking about faster interest rate hikes and stimulus withdrawal it had been widely expected. read more

MSCI’s 50-country index of world stocks barely budged, little changed from where it started the year, while Europe recovered from an early dip to add to two days of solid gains even as the euro climbed to its highest in nearly two months. /FRX

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Asian markets had weakened slightly overnight on softer-than-expected Chinese lending data and more falls in the property sector, but futures markets where pointing to a steady restart for Wall Street which had closed higher on Wednesday. read more

“As we see it, the inflation story is going to persist for good a while longer yet,” said Manulife Asset Management’s global macro strategist Eric Theoret.

“We have had a tremendous acceleration in the Fed’s tightening,” he added. Theoret pointed out that when the U.S. central bank raised interest rates in 2015 it waited two years before shrinking its balance sheet, whereas this time it could begin by the end of the year.

“The challenge from here is how the global economy responds to this normalisation.”

In the bond markets, where borrowing costs have raced to keep up with rate hike expectations this year, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields hovered around 1.74% and Germany’s 10-year yield spent the day bobbing near -0.064 having approached positive yield territory for the first time since May 2019.

European Central Bank Vice President Luis de Guindos became the latest to warn that the current spike in inflation was not going to be as transitory as originally expected. Upmarket Swiss bathroom goods giant Geberit (GEBN.S) had seen its shares slide too as it warned it was now impossible to predict how much raw materials prices would rise this year.

It is a busy period for bond issuance as countries and companies look to beat the rise in rates. Italy was due to sell up to 7 billion euros of three- and seven-year bonds later, Ireland was eyeing a bumper sale. The week is also set to be a record one for emerging market corporate debt sales with nearly 30 taking place.

“It is a record in my time,” said Omotunde Lawal, head of emerging markets corporate debt at Barings. “Most people are swamped, but you can see why with as many as four Fed hikes now priced in.”

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In the currency markets, the dollar was continuing to slip towards a 2-month low against a basket of currencies. The euro was a big beneficiary of the move and extended its rise to $1.1479 , up 0.3% on the day, while sterling and the yen also extended recent gains. /FRX

The pound is up more than 4% from December lows and traders have so far shrugged off a political crisis enveloping Prime Minister Boris Johnson who apologised for attending a party in the Downing Street garden during a coronavirus lockdown.

The central bank of New Zealand has begun hiking rates too, and the New Zealand dollar rallied 0.4% to $0.6876, its strongest since late November.

Australia’s dollar, which tends to perform well when broader market sentiment is improving, added 0.3% to $0.7305 .

The Canadian dollar has rallied more than 3.5% in three weeks, gaining with oil prices as investors look past the potential economic fallout of the Omicron variant.

“The (U.S.) dollar does not have to increase because the Fed is readying a tightening cycle,” said Commonwealth Bank of Australia strategist Joe Capurso.

“It is not a simple equation of Fed hikes equals dollar increases. The dollar is a counter-cyclical currency which decreases as the world economy recovers.”

In Asia, Chinese blue-chips (.CSI300) dropped 1.6% after data showing mainland bank lending fell more than expected in December causing property and consumption sectors to sink.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) was flat after recording its biggest daily gain in a month on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) lost nearly 1% after surging nearly 2% a day earlier.

Oil prices ticked lower in commodity markets too, a day after hitting their highest in nearly two months.

Global benchmark Brent crude fell 0.07% to $84.61 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude edged down to $82.58 per barrel. Spot gold held steady at $1,824.54 an ounce.

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Additional Reporting by Tommy Wilkes in London and Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Toby Chopra

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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