Stocks rise, dollar drifts ahead of US inflation report

By Thomson Reuters May 14, 2024 | 9:07 PM

By Ankur Banerjee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian stocks rose on Wednesday while the dollar drifted lower as traders weighed mixed U.S. producer price data and braced for the crucial consumer price report later in the day that is likely to influence the Federal Reserve’s near-term policy path.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.38%, scaling a fresh 15-month high earlier in the session. Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.58%.

Data overnight showed U.S. producer prices increased more than expected in April, indicating that inflation remained stubbornly high early in the second quarter.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell, speaking at a banking event in Amsterdam, called the PPI data “mixed” rather than “hot” because prior data was revised lower.

Investors have had to dial back their expectations of U.S. rate cuts this year due to sticky inflation and are now pricing in 43 basis points of easing this year, compared with 150 bps of easing anticipated at the start of 2024.

“Market anticipation of rate cuts has been building recently based on weaker-than-expected U.S. labour market data, but if prices don’t follow suit, then rate-cut hopes will be dashed,” said Ryan Brandham, head of global capital markets, North America at Validus Risk Management.

All eyes are now on Wednesday’s U.S. consumer prices report, which is expected to show CPI rose 0.3% month-on-month in April, down from a 0.4% growth the previous month, according to a Reuters poll.

Powell reiterated his message of caution over rate cut expectations although the Fed chief, along with Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President Loretta Mester, poured cold water over any rate hike thoughts, ING economists said.

“That doesn’t necessarily sound like someone who is expecting a great CPI number today.”

The Nasdaq scored a record closing-high on Tuesday and the S&P 500 and the Dow also rose, boosted by Powell’s comments that reassured investors that the central bank’s next interest rate move was unlikely to be a hike. [.N]

Retail investor darlings GameStop and AMC soared overnight, as posts from “Roaring Kitty” Keith Gill raised chatter about the return of the central figure behind the 2021 meme stock frenzy.

Over in China, stocks eased in early trading with the blue-chip index down 0.16%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was off 0.22%.

U.S. President Joe Biden unveiled a bundle of steep tariff increases on an array of Chinese imports including electric vehicles, computer chips and medical products.

In the currency market, the dollar was on the backfoot as traders remained hesitant in making moves ahead of the CPI report, with the euro close to its one-month peak and was last at $1.0817.

The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against six peers, was last at 105.01. The yen was last at 156.36 per dollar, having touched a two-week low of 156.80 on Tuesday, with traders wary of another bout of interventions from Japanese authorities.

The yen touched a 34-year low of 160.245 per dollar on April 29, triggering rounds of aggressive yen-buying that traders and analysts suspect was the work of the Bank of Japan and Japanese finance ministry.

In commodities, oil prices edged higher as large wildfires were threatening Canada’s oil sands and as the market expected U.S. crude oil and gasoline inventories to show a drawdown later in the day. [O/R]

U.S. crude was up 0.4% at $82.71 per barrel and Brent was at $78.39 per barrel, up 0.5%.

Spot gold XAU= was little changed at $2,356.79 per ounce.

(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)