Marketmind: Calm before the U.S. inflation storm

By Jamie McGeever

(Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in Asian markets from Jamie McGeever.

The world is bracing for U.S. inflation figures on Wednesday, but before that Asia gets to digest a mixed performance on Wall Street, another creep up in U.S. bond yields, and a major inflation report of its own.

Indian consumer price inflation for March tops a regional economic calendar on Wednesday which also includes Indian industrial production, South Korean unemployment, and corporate goods inflation and machinery orders from Japan.

These releases come against a backdrop of global stock markets still maintaining a glass-half-full outlook despite the growth picture fraying at the edges and bond yields continuing a steady creep higher.

Asian stock markets, in particular, are holding firm – the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 0.6% on Tuesday, its third consecutive increase and its best performance this month.

The U.S. CPI inflation report for March will go a long way to determining what the Fed decides at its May 2-3 policy meeting. Markets expect headline inflation to continue slowing, but are still shifting towards pricing in another quarter point rate hike.

GRAPHIC: U.S. CPI inflation

GRAPHIC: Indian CPI inflation and policy rate

India’s consumer inflation, meanwhile, likely eased in March to 5.80%, thanks to softer food price rises, dipping below the Reserve Bank of India’s upper tolerance limit of 6.00% for the first time this year.

The data comes less than a week after the RBI surprised markets by holding its key interest rate steady at 6.50% when most expected a 25 basis point rise.

South Korean unemployment in February fell back to match last August’s record low of 2.6%, so a further decline in the March reading would break new historic ground.

Finance ministers and central bank officials from around the world are in Washington for this week’s International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings.

The IMF on Tuesday trimmed its global growth outlook for this year and next as higher interest rates bite, and warned that the risk of “perilous” financial turmoil could slash output to near recessionary levels.

The global lender kept its Chinese growth forecasts at 5.2% and 4.5%, respectively, but lowered its 2023 Indian GDP growth forecast by a fifth of a percentage point to 5.9% and next year’s outlook by half a point to 6.3%.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was more optimistic about global economic growth and warned against overdoing the ‘negativism’. She also said she still hopes to visit China, underscoring President Joe Biden’s focus on opening up and maintaining channels of communication with Beijing.

Here are three key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Wednesday:

– IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington

– India CPI inflation (March)

– U.S. CPI inflation (March)

(By Jamie McGeever; Editing by Deepa Babington)


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