Asia stocks touch 15-month top, wary of US inflation

<br /> Asia stocks touch 15-month top, wary of US inflation <br />

Sydney, May 13 (BNA): Asian shares eked out a 15-month high on Monday in a week when inflation figures could either support or undermine expectations for earlier U.S. rate cuts, while Chinese activity data will test optimism about a sustained recovery in the world’s No. 2 economy.


Beijing has already reported inflation to an annual 0.3% in April. Forecasts favour further gains in April retail sales and industrial output due on Friday, Reuters reported.


Chinese authorities are also set to sell 1 trillion yuan ($138.24 billion) in longer-dated bonds to help fund stimulus spending at home.


The improved sentiment has helped lift Chinese blue chips to a seven-month high. The index was 0.1% softer on Monday with some sectors pressured by reports the White House was about to release details of new tariffs on Chinese goods.


MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1%, after rallying for three weeks straight.


Japan’s Nikkei slipped 0.3%, with speculation further losses for the yen could lead the Bank of Japan to raise rates in the next few months.


The central bank sent a hawkish signal to markets on Monday by cutting the amount of Japanese government bonds it offered to buy in a regular operation, pushing yields up.


Globally, now depends on whether the U.S. April inflation report will show a moderation after three months of upside surprises. Median forecasts are for core consumer prices to rise 0.3% in the month, compared with 0.4% in March, pulling the annual rate down to 3.6%.


So crucial is the data that rounding to the second decimal place could make all the difference.


A low number would likely boost bets the Federal Reserve could ease as soon as July, which is currently priced at only a 25% chance. Equally, a high inflation print could push a rate cut out past September and challenge pricing for 42 basis points of easing this year.


Also, due are figures on U.S. producer prices, retail sales and jobless claims, along with final reports on European inflation that should reinforce expectations for a June rate cut from the European Central Bank.


There are a host of Fed speakers this week to update markets on their thinking, including Fed Chair Jerome Powell who appears with the head of the Dutch central bank on Tuesday.




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