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Asian Stocks Down, Investors Digest Higher-Than-Expected U.S. Inflation

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Investing.com – Asia Pacific stocks were mostly down on Thursday morning, with the fastest U.S. inflation print in over three decades fueling expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will hike interest rates as early as March 2022.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.96% by 9:03 PM ET (2:03 AM GMT). South Korea’s KOSPI inched down 0.07%, with the Bank of Korea handing down its policy decision on Friday.

In Australia, the ASX 200 gained 0.43% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up 0.24%.

China’s Shanghai Composite inched down 0.02% and the Shenzhen Componentwas down 0.23%.

U.S. shares, including the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 ended on a high note on Wednesday. Data released in the U.S. showed that the core consumer price index (CPI) grew 0.6% month-on-month and 5.5% year-on-year in December. The CPI grew 7% year-on-year and 0.5% month-on-month, the fastest pace since 1982.

In its Beige Book survey, the Fed said that the U.S. economy grew at a modest pace in the final weeks of 2021, but businesses’ expectations for growth over the next several months have cooled in some places.

The U.S. inflation data came after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell pledged to curb inflation without derailing the economic recovery from COVID-19.

Fed St. Louis President James Bullard told the Wall Street Journal that four rate increases may be justified in 2022 amid high inflation. Fed Bank of Cleveland President Loretta Mester and Atlanta Fed leader Raphael Bostic separately backed interest rate hikes as soon as March 2022.

Other Fed officials, including Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, and Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, will speak later in the day. New York Fed President John Williams will speak on Friday.

Inflation continues to remain a big concern for some investors as well.

“Inflation is going to be with us no matter if they increase rates and the challenges of the economy here are just going to build on that,” Strategic Wealth Partners chief market strategist Shana Sissel told Bloomberg.

“I am concerned that there is going to be quite a bit of volatility in the market and our economy is going to slow down considerably.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee hearing for Fed vice-chair nominee Lael Brainard will take place later in the day and investors also await the U.S. producer price index.

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