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Stocks creep higher as focus turns to U.S. inflation data

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SINGAPORE — Asian stocks rose on Tuesday as traders in Korea returned from holidays in a mood to catch up on a global bounce, while other markets held steady ahead of U.S. inflation data that will offer a crucial guide to the interest rate outlook.

Wall Street indexes posted a fourth straight session of gains overnight, while the U.S. dollar retreated further from milestone highs – partly on hopes that the prices data, due at 1230 GMT, might offer another signal that inflation has peaked.

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MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6%, led by a 2% jump for South Korea’s Kospi. Japan’s Nikkei tacked on 0.3%.

S&P 500 futures were flat, as were European futures . Easing oil prices have markets optimistic that headline inflation will steady or slow in the United States, and that this can reduce the need for future interest rate hikes.

Analysts warn that core inflation is likely to march on, however, and that the near-term rate implications are unclear.

“It’s too early to be celebrating the end of inflation, as some market participants seem already to be doing,” said ING economist Rob Carnell.

U.S. crude is hovering below $90 a barrel, down nearly 30% since the middle of June and roughly where it traded before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Interest rate futures imply a 90% chance that the Federal Reserve lifts its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points at next week’s policy meeting – a position that is perhaps most vulnerable to a downside CPI surprise.

“The market-implied probability of a third 75 bp rate hike for September has increased noticeably in recent days,” said NatWest Markets’ U.S. rates strategist Jan Nevruzi.

“Results close to expectations for the August CPI report may not change the outcome too much in terms of the market’s expectation,” he said.

“If officials do decide to go with another 75bp, more than our long-standing call for 50bp…we suspect policymakers emphasize how they are front-loading hikes.”

DOLLAR DIP

Asia data out on Tuesday offered a cloudy picture of regional economies. A 9% year-on-year jump in Japanese wholesale prices points to pressure on corporate margins, yet a slowdown in gains for August holds some hope of relief.

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In New Zealand rate hikes which began a year ago are starting to bite, sending home prices down 6% since last August.

The investment banking world is also offering a counterpoint to stockmarkets’ enthusiasm. Goldman Sachs is mulling job cuts, a person familiar with the plans told Reuters overnight.

Buyout giant KKR is refusing to improve a takeover bid for Australian hospital operator Ramsay Health Care .

In currency markets the dollar is off recent peaks. Tailwinds from last week’s European rate hike have the euro extending a bounce and above parity at $1.0127.

Even the battered Japanese yen is having a breather at 142.57 per dollar – a bit stronger than last week’s 24-year low at 144.99 with some investors closing bets on a further slide as risks of official intervention increase.

U.S. Treasury yields rose overnight after some lackluster auctions. Selling was heaviest at the very long end, with the 30-year yield up about 6 bps to around 3.5%.

Benchmark 10-year yields steadied at 3.3405% in Tokyo trade on Tuesday, beneath the two-year yield of 3.5506%.

Gold and cryptocurrencies have crept higher on the softening dollar. Spot gold last held at $1,723 an ounce, while bitcoin was at $22,245.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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