Futures tick up as US inflation hits four-decade high

Financial Markets Wall Street
AP File

NEW YORK — U.S. futures ticked higher as new data showed inflation reached a four-decade high, adding to investor unease about higher interest rates, Chinese efforts to contain coronavirus outbreaks and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

London, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Seoul fell. Shanghai and Hong Kong advanced. Oil prices rose more than $3 per barrel.

Inflation soared over the past year at its fastest pace in more than 40 years, the Labor Department reported Tuesday, with costs for food, gasoline, housing and other necessities squeezing American consumers and wiping out the pay raises that many people have received.

Markets are uneasy about plans by the Federal Reserve and other central banks to try to cool inflation by rolling back ultra-low interest rates. Adding to their anxiety are Russia’s attack on Ukraine and China’s decision to shut down most businesses in Shanghai, its commercial capital, to fight coronavirus outbreaks.

“All eyes today are on the U.S. March CPI reading,” which is expected to surge to 8.4% over a year ago, said ING analysts in a report. “A number in that vicinity should maintain aggressive Fed tightening expectations,” they said.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London lost 0.6% to 7,573.6 and Frankfurt’s DAX tumbled 0.8% to 14,082.1. The CAC 40 in Paris retreated 0.5% to 6,524.2.

On Wall Street, the future for the benchmark S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.74% and 0.36%, respectively.

On Monday, the S&P slid 1.7% and the Dow fell 1.2%. The Nasdaq sank 2.2%.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.5% to 3,213.33 after authorities announced they would ease anti-coronavirus controls that shut down most businesses in China’s most populous city and disrupted manufacturing.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.5% to 21,319.13 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 1.8% to 26,334.98.

The Kospi in Seoul gave up 1% to 2,666.76 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 retreated 0.4% to 7,454.00.

India’s Sensex declined 0.5% to 58,685.08. Jakarta advanced while New Zealand and other Southeast Asian markets declined.

Tuesday’s economic data shows inflation is growing closer to the inflection point where Americans may begin to cut spending, which would likely mean a sharper slowdown in economic growth than expected.

Investors are anticipating a more aggressive shift from the Fed as it tries to rein in rising inflation. The central bank has already announced a quarter-percentage point raise of its key interest rate.

Fed officials indicated in minutes from last month’s meeting they were considering raising the U.S. benchmark rate by double the normal amount at upcoming meetings. They also indicated they would shrink the Fed’s bond holdings, which would push up long-term borrowing rates.

Oil prices have fallen back on expectations of weaker Chinese demand after most businesses in Shanghai were shut down and controls imposed on other industrial centers to contain coronavirus outbreaks. Prices spiked above $130 per barrel last month on anxiety about possible disruption in Russian supplies.

Automakers and other manufacturers in China are reducing production after authorities tightened restrictions to help stem coronavirus outbreaks in Shanghai and other cities.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained $3.70 to $98 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $3.97 on Monday to $94.29. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, added $4.05 to $102.53 per barrel in London. It fell $4.30 the previous session to $98.48.

The dollar rose to 125.63 Japanese yen from Monday’s 125.46 yen. The euro declined to $1.0870 from $1.0890.

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