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Stubborn US inflation keeps jittery markets on edge

15 February 2018

As the stock market found some footing, it may not be out of the woods as investors await evidence as to whether US inflation is accelerating.

Facebook jumped 3.7 per cent while Amazon and Apple both rose more than 1.8 per cent.

That comes after a remarkably calm year for stocks: there were only eight days in 2017 where the S&P 500 rose or fell at least 1 percent. "And people feel that because they held up during the downturn, you can come back to them and not get hammered if things turn down again", said Thomas Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments in Atlanta, Georgia.

Since last Thursday, the S&P 500 has surged 4.56 percent, its strongest four-session performance since mid-2016.

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The Consumer Price Index increased 0.5% for the month and 2.1% for the year. However, the year-on-year rise was unchanged at 1.8 per cent. The data rekindled fears that the Federal Reserve would feel compelled to act aggressively to tamp down rising prices by hiking rates at a rapid clip in 2018. That builds on a recent spike in wage growth, which triggered concerns about inflation returning to the economy. "People got too pessimistic".

"In general, the report indicated that the holiday shopping season was less vigorous than previously believed and that individuals were not especially active in January; however, with strong results in November, we would still view the holiday shopping season as favorable, and the results in January, while slow, were not weak enough to suggest a pullback by consumers", Daiwa said. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 2.3 percent to 30,515.60, while the Shanghai Composite index added 0.5 percent to 3,199.16.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.82 percent. France's CAC 40 was up 0.2 percent to 5,120, while Germany's DAX shed 0.3 percent to 12,152.

The VIX slipping below 20 is "a very good sign", said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management. A drop of that size is known on Wall Street as a market "correction".

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Twenty-First Century Fox picked up 66 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $36.40 after The Wall Street Journal reported that cable and internet provider Comcast is still interested in buying Fox's entertainment divisions and could make another offer.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N) is among the early gainers and has gathered more than 10% in premarket trading.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.31-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.48-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

About 7.8 billion shares changed hands in USA exchanges, compared with the 8.4 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

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Stubborn US inflation keeps jittery markets on edge