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Stock rally pauses as US inflation douses rate cut hopes


Stock rally pauses as US inflation douses rate cut hopes

By Naomi Rovnick and Kevin Buckland

LONDON TOKYO, LONDON (Reuters) – Global stocks were set to end the week on a tepid note, following seven weeks of gains, after hotter-than-forecast U.S. inflation knocked back bets for how soon and often the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates.

MSCI’S global equity index was down 0.2% on Friday and flat for the week, following a strong rally for most of the first quarter of the year.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against the euro, yen and four other major peers, added 0.05% to 103.45, following a rally on Thursday, heading for its best week since January.

The mood turned cautions after a bigger-than-expected rise in producer prices in U.S. data on Thursday added to a hot consumer inflation reading earlier in the week.

Traders have cut the odds of the U.S. Federal Reserve, the world’s most influential central bank, cutting rates in June to 60%, from about 67% late on Wednesday, according to LSEG’s rate probability app.

For 2024, the market is now pricing in fewer than three rate cuts, down from three to four roughly two weeks ago and around seven late last year.

U.S. benchmark bond yields, which influence the cost of debt globally, held near the 4.3% level they reached on Thursday for the first time this month, following their biggest jump in three months.

This move pressured tech shares, with an index of these businesses in Europe 0.5% lower in early London dealings, following a similar slump in Asia and on Wall Street.

Traders tend to cut tech holdings when they believe these high growth businesses may find it harder to borrow money to fund expansion or because high yields on bonds make speculative equities less appealing.

“Price pressures are looking more stubborn, with the process of disinflation taking longer than hoped,” said Kyle Rodda, senior markets analyst at Capital.com.

That, he added, was “raising the spectre of a potential air pocket ahead for the tech-driven rally”.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slid more than 2%, and South Korea’s Kospi lost 1.9%.

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U.S. stock futures pointed marginally lower following a 0.29% decline in the S&P 500 on Thursday that masked a big drop in chip sector shares.

Japan was in the global market spotlight, meanwhile, as speculation builds that the Bank of Japan could exit its ultra-dovish monetary policies at its two-day meeting ending next Tuesday (March 19).

Jiji news agency reported on Thursday that the BOJ had started to make arrangements to end its negative interest rate policy at the gathering.

Sources told Reuters that the central bank would debate the end of negative rates while the government also appeared to back a policy shift. Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Friday that the economy was no longer in deflation.

Japan’s 10-year bond yield rose to 0.795% for the first time in more than three months.

Any yen strength, however, was overpowered by the resurgent dollar, which gained 0.2% to 148.6 yen, continuing its rebound from a low of 146.48 a week ago.

The euro extended Thursday’s decline to $1.088, after hitting a two-month high of $1.0980 a week ago.

Elsewhere, oil prices succumbed to some profit taking, following strong gains this week amid sharp declines in U.S. crude and fuel inventories, drone strikes on Russian refineries and an increase in energy demand forecasts. [O/R]

Brent crude futures for May were down 18 cents, or 0.21%, to $85.24 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for April was down 17 cents, or 0.2%, to $81.10.

Bitcoin edged away from an all-time high reached on Thursday, as risk sentiment took a hit.

 

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Mark Potter)

 

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