Inflation Targets Above Expectations, Spooking Markets

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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Inflation figures for a big economic data point came out higher than anticipated Wednesday morning, causing stock futures to run in the negative before the opening bell.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation was 0.2 percent higher for the month of January and the year to date than economists’ originally projected. The CPI inflation rate for January was 0.5 percent and 2.1 percent for the year, up from 1.9 percent in from initial expectations.

Across the board, stock futures dropped instantly after news broke Wednesday. Dow Jones, S&P 500, NASDAQ, Gold, Silver and Crude Oil futures were down before trading kicked off.

Real average earnings fell 0.8 percent in January, although they are up 0.4 percent from the January 2017.

U.S. retail sales dropped 0.3 percent in January, losing anticipated gains from December 2017.

All major U.S. stock market indexes fell in the first weeks of February. The market shed more than $1 trillion in market capitalization in the days of trading this month as investors, for the first time in nearly a decade, believe that central banks around the world will pull back on their recession-era easy money policies and raise interest rates to ensure that rapidly growing economies don’t run too hot.

The market is down roughly 7 percent overall from its Jan. 26 high.

Wednesday’s inflation figures are the first sign that interest rates could rise in the near future, as the Federal Reserve has its eyes on indicators of a continued tightening of the labor market and economic growth. The Fed said in December that it anticipates three interest rate increases in 2018, and newly seated Fed Chair Jerome Powell hinted Tuesday that the central bank would not deviate from those plans going forward, so long as the market shows signs of continued growth.

Interest rates have been historically low for years.

Expectations of higher interest rates globally are not simply a hypothesis on the part of investors. Central bank chiefs around the globe are signaling, or announcing flat-out, that they plan to jack up rates in 2018.

The Federal Open Market Committee announced in late January that they anticipates further rate increases in 2018, causing investors to believe the government will raise interest rates more than two times in 2018.

The Bank of England strengthened its economic forecast Thursday and announced it will likely have to raise interest rates both earlier and higher than it expected in November.

Stocks and bonds are engaged in a weeks long battle, as the equity market becomes less attractive to investors who are seeking safer investments in the bond market.

Ten-year U.S. Treasuries rose three points Wednesday morning, coupled with a 1 point increase in 10-year German Treasury bonds.

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