World stocks hit record high as bond yields ease with inflation fears


TOKYO: Global equity markets rose to a fresh record high on Wednesday as bond yields eased after data showed U.S. inflation was not rising wildly.

Most Asia-Pacific share indexes followed Wall Street higher, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng leading gains in the region, while benchmark U.S. Treasury yields continued their decline, marking a fresh three-week low.

Japan bucked the trend, with the Nikkei falling 0.4% as rising coronavirus cases raised doubts about an economic reopening with 100 days to go until Tokyo is scheduled to host the Olympics.

The U.S. consumer price index rose 0.6%, the biggest increase since August 2012, as rising vaccinations and fiscal stimulus unleashed pent-up demand. But the data is unlikely to change Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's view that higher inflation in coming months will be transitory.

Powell is scheduled to speak later in the day at the Economic Club of Washington.

"The market clearly braced for higher CPI readings," Westpac strategists wrote in a client note.

They said Tuesday's result was "clearly being interpreted within the context of the Fed's commitment to look through 'transitory' inflation impulses."

For bond markets, the question is whether the benchmark yield can break below 1.6% from as low as 1.611% on Wednesday, they wrote.

"That has been an important technical level, which if broken could see a quick move to 1.5%."

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield had surged from the start of the year to a 14-month high of 1.776% on March 30 on bets that massive fiscal stimulus would speed up a U.S. recovery, stoking faster inflation than Fed policymakers anticipate.

But yields have eased this month, in part owing to the Fed's insistence that labour market slack will prevent the economy from overheating.

A spate of strong auction results, including of 30-year bonds on Tuesday, has also helped to tame yields.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.6%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rallied 1.3%, while China's blue-chip index jumped 0.7%.

MSCI's gauge of equity performance in 50 countries advanced 0.15%, extending its all-time peak.

The decline in bond yields lifted U.S. tech stocks overnight, including Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc, the top three holdings of the global benchmark.

The S&P 500 gained 0.33% as it also set intra-day and record closing highs, while the Nasdaq Composite added 1.05%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2%.

Johnson & Johnson's shares slid 1.34% after U.S. federal health agencies recommended pausing the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine for at least a few days, after six women developed rare blood clots. Setbacks to vaccination rollouts have raised concerns about the global economic recovery.

Earnings will be a focus on Wednesday, with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc among the companies reporting.

The U.S. dollar eased along with Treasury yields, slipping to a three-week low to major peers.

Gold, a traditional inflation hedge, extended its rise from the lowest in more than a week to trade around $1,745 in the spot market.

Bitcoin hit a record above $63,860, extending its 2021 rally to new heights on the day Coinbase shares are due to list in the United States.

In oil markets, Brent crude futures rose 40 cents to $64.07 a barrel. U.S. crude futures added 37 cents to$60.55 a barrel. - Reuters

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