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Picture: 123RF/NUPEAN PRUPRONG
Picture: 123RF/NUPEAN PRUPRONG

London/Tokyo — Asian and European shares fell, US and European bond yields hit multiyear highs, and oil prices climbed on Wednesday as investors braced for tighter monetary policy to combat troubling levels of inflation.

US Treasury yields reached fresh two-year highs and Germany’s 10-year yield rose above 0% for the first time since May 2019, as investors increased bets that policymakers will curb years of stimulus as they fight rising asset prices.

The benchmark German bond’s shift to positive yields marks a turning point for euro-area debt, reflecting record-high inflation that is being worsened by supply chain disruption.

“This inflationary episode is unusually challenging in that it is driven by both strong demand and shortages of supply,” said Guy Foster, chief strategist at wealth manager Brewin Dolphin.

Oil prices touched the highest level since 2014 amid an outage on a pipeline from Iraq to Turkey and global political tensions. That’s stoking fears of inflation becoming more persistent and propping up the dollar, which hovered near one-week highs.

“There is a limited amount that domestic interest rates can do to ease global markets for gas, oil and semiconductors but generally tighter monetary policy around the world would slow the economy and relieve some of this pressure,” Foster said.

An index of Europe’s 600 biggest stocks fell 0.1%, following earlier losses in MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan. Tech stocks suffered most.

Australian shares shed 1.0%, while Japan’s Nikkei hit a three-month low as worries over new curbs on businesses as health authorities attempt to halt a record surge in coronavirus cases, curbing risk appetite.

Shares in Sony Group slumped to the lowest level since late October, losing more than 10% after gaming rival Microsoft said it will buy developer Activision Blizzard.

US stock markets looked set to follow the sombre tone, with S&P 500 futures down 0.13%.

Hikes ahead

Two-year Treasury yields, which track short-term interest rate expectations, were last at 1.063%, after climbing to 1.075% — the highest since February 2020 — as traders positioned for a more hawkish Fed ahead at its policy meeting next week.

The prospect of higher US rates also played out elsewhere in fixed income markets, with longer-dated US Treasury yields recording two-year highs.

Ten-year yields were up about 3 basis points at 1.8916%, while five-year yields were at 1.682%, also holding near new two-year highs recorded early in the session.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies of other major trading partners, was down at 95.654.

Sterling held steady at $1.3609 despite data showing inflation was at a 30-year high, and the growing prospects of a leadership challenge against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Oil prices rose for a fourth day as an outage on a pipeline from Iraq to Turkey added to worries about an already tight supply outlook amid geopolitical troubles involving Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

US crude jumped 0.48% to $85.91 a barrel, while Brent rose 0.33% to $87.76.

Gold was slightly lower, with the spot price at $1,811.35 an ounce.

Reuters

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