Morning Chronicle - Stocks slide as US inflation surges

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Stocks slide as US inflation surges
Stocks slide as US inflation surges

Stocks slide as US inflation surges

US stock markets slid on Thursday as data showed inflation jumping to a four-decade high, raising concerns that the Federal Reserve may move aggressively with interest rate hikes.

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US consumer prices rose at an annual rate not seen since February 1982, with a 7.5 percent increase over the 12 months to January, according to government figures.

Wall Street's three major indices moved lower, although they pared their initial losses.

The "surprising acceleration" of consumer prices "boosted expectations of a more aggressive response from the Fed", said analysts at Charles Schwab investment firm.

"The initial optimism that we might see evidence that US inflation might be slowing, that had helped push US markets higher this week, and higher in the pre-market, sharply evaporated" after the data was released, said market analyst Michael Hewson at CMC Markets.

Some Fed officials on Wednesday said policymakers would make their decisions based on data coming across their desks, with a 50-basis-point hike -- as opposed to the usual 25 basis points -- not off the table.

Surging inflation and bets that the US central bank will end its pandemic-era cheap cash policies have weighed on world markets in recent months, stalling a two-year rally that saw them hit record or multi-year highs.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note, a proxy for interest rates, hit two percent on Thursday for the first time since July 2019.

"The market isn't just concerned about inflation, it is also concerned about the Fed's response to inflation," said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

"Raising interest rates may be appropriate monetary policy, but that doesn't mean the market as a whole will react positively," he said.

In Europe, London's FTSE 100 rose, Frankfurt's DAX edged higher, and in Paris the CAC 40 slipped.

Europe had its share of negative news as the European Commission cut the eurozone's economic growth forecast as energy prices and supply chain problems jack up inflation.

This followed what had been a broadly positive week for global equities thanks to some healthy earnings results, further reopening of economies and signs of easing Russia-Ukraine tensions.

- Earnings boost -

There is a feeling in some quarters that investors may be getting used to the prospect of higher borrowing costs, however, while still-strong economic data and the easing of containment measures will continue to support company earnings.

French energy giant TotalEnergies rebounded from the Covid crisis with a huge 2021 profit as oil and gas prices soared.

The company reported a net profit of $16 billion following a $7.2-billion loss in 2020, when crude prices crashed.

Elsewhere, signs of progress on the diplomatic front in eastern Europe have kept a cap on oil price gains in recent days, as has the possibility of a revived Iran nuclear deal, which could see Tehran resume worldwide exports and ease supply problems.

Both main contracts were nevertheless higher Thursday, having rallied this year to their highest levels since 2014.

- Key figures around 1630 GMT -

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 35,628.05 points

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,199.40

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,672.40 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP less than 0.1 percent at 15,490.44 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,101.55 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 27,696.08 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.4 percent at 24,924.35 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,485.91 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1486 from $1.1425 late Wednesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3630 from $1.3535

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.29 pence from 84.40 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 115.84 yen from 115.52 yen

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.3 percent at $92.74 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.8 percent at $91.25 per barrel