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Asian share markets rally ahead of US inflation figures

Asian share markets

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.5%, Nikkei added 1.1% and Chinese blue chips firmed 1.3%

Asian share markets rallied on Monday on hopes a key reading on US inflation will show some cooling, while the US dollar was restrained by the risk of higher European interest rates and Japanese intervention.

Holidays in China and South Korea made for slow trading, while traders were unsure what implications Ukraine’s surprising success against Russian forces might have.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.5%, having bounced modestly from a two-year low hit last week. Japan’s Nikkei added another 1.1%, after rallying 2% last week.

Chinese blue chips firmed 1.3% ahead of retail and industry data due later in the week that may show some improvement in August after a disappointing July.

Wall Street looked to extend Friday’s bounce and S&P 500 futures edged up 0.1%, while Nasdaq futures gained 0.2%. EUROSTOXX 50 futures gained 0.7% and FTSE futures 0.3%.

Bulls are hoping Tuesday’s reading on US consumer prices will hint at a peak for inflation as falling petrol prices are seen pulling down the headline index by 0.1%, according to a Reuters poll.

The core is forecast to rise 0.3%, though some analysts see a chance of a softer report.

Arguably, with the economy having contracted through the first half, and household discretionary spending capacity under significant pressure, we are due a modest downside surprise, said economists at Westpac.

As such, we forecast +0.2% for core and -0.2% for headline, they added. If achieved though, it should not be assumed that October and beyond will see repeats, with volatility likely to persist.

A soft number might revive speculation the Federal Reserve will only hike by 50 basis points (bps) this month, though it would likely have to be very weak to have a real impact given how stridently hawkish policymakers have been recently.

The market currently implies an 88% chance the Fed will hike by 75bps.

BofA global economist Ethan Harris fears that by focusing on actual inflation to determine when to stop, central banks may go too far. The bank has lifted its target for the federal funds rate to a range of 4.0-4.25%, with a 75bp hike in September and smaller rises thereafter.

For investors, this means more pressure on interest rates, more weakness in risk assets and further upside for the super-strong dollar, said Harris.

He said: In our view, these trends only turn when markets price the full fury of central bank hikes and we are not quite there yet.

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