European stocks take a breather after strong rally

HONG KONG (AP) — Most Asian stock indexes rallied Friday, tracing gains on Wall Street after weaker than expected inflation figures soothed concerns about a possible acceleration of interest rate hikes. European stocks faltered ahead of a speech by the European Central Bank chief.

KEEPING SCORE: European shares were mostly lower in early trading. France’s CAC 40 lost 0.3 percent to 5,530.22 and Germany’s DAX dipped 0.3 percent to 12,988.69. Britain’sFTSE 100 was nearly flat at 7,702.66. Wall Street was poised to open higher. Dow futures gained 0.1 percent to 24,723.00 and broader S&P 500 futures added 0.1 percent to 2,721.00.

ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 percent to close at 22,758.48 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6 percent to 2,477.71. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.0 percent to 31,122.06 but the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.4 percent to 3,163.26. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent lower to 6,116.20. Indexes in Taiwan’s and Southeast Asia were higher.

INFLATION: U.S. consumer prices rose a modest 0.2 percent in April, indicating that that broader inflation pressure in the world’s No. 1 economy remains muted. Slower growth in core prices may relieve pressure on the Federal Reserve to accelerate interest rate hikes. The U.S. central bank is expected to lift rates three times this year, but some analysts believe an uptick in inflation or economic growth might spur the Fed to add another hike. Other releases on Thursday added to signs of tempered global inflation: Chinese consumer prices rose 1.8 percent in April, slower than the previous month’s 2.1 percent, while the Bank of England held off on raising rates, citing weaker than expected price growth.

MARKET INSIGHT: “While inflation is continuing to trend up it’s only happening slowly. So Goldilocks continues,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital. The Fed will keep “normalizing, but for now it can remain gradual, with the next hike still on track for June.”

EUROPEAN MEETING: Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank’s president, is scheduled to speak on the first day of a two-day EU State of the Union meeting in Italy. Markets are awaiting his comments on the outlook for the eurozone’s economy and the bank’s stimulus plans.

SINGAPORE MEETING: Geopolitical uncertainty eased after news that a highly anticipated meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will happen June 12 in Singapore. The confirmation follows the return of three Americans held by Kim’s government.

ENERGY: Oil futures were at their highest level since 2014 as President Donald Trump’s decision this week to re-impose sanctions Iran, the world’s fifth-biggest oil producer, reverberated. Benchmark U.S. crude oil climbed 8 cents to $71.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 22 cents to settle at $71.36 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 7 cents to $77.40 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 109.27 from 109.39 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1926 from $1.1916.

This article provided by NewsEdge.