Retail sales fall, inflation picks up and markets sort it all out


- Stocks powered higher Monday, sending the Dow Jones industrial average up 410 points, as the market clawed back more of its massive losses from the previous two weeks.

Investment banks were in favor, as investors bet on a more rapid rise in interest rates, which would benefit the banks.

That again stoked fears that interest rates will increase faster than expected, sending benchmark United States bond yields to session highs and further quelling investors' interest in the stock market.

Following a slump into correction territory last week, the S&P 500 has recovered 3.2 percent in the past three sessions.

In the latest economic data, the consumer price index rose by its highest amount in five months in January. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.84 a gallon.

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Analysts polled by Reuters expect the year-over-year increase in the government's broadest inflation gauge is likely to slow to 1.9 percent from 2.1 percent in December.

New CEO Brian Niccol had run Taco Bell for three years during a time when the chain was been the most successful in the portfolio of Yum Brands Inc (NYSE:YUM), which also owns Pizza Hut and KFC. In early trading Wednesday, investors were mixed.

The Labor Department data was more eagerly anticipated than usual following last week's stock market turmoil when worries about the potential for more aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate hikes sparked a massive selloff.

"Inflation rates have held steady at 2.1% for annual headline consumer price inflation and 1.8% for the core rate (which excludes food and energy) rather than fall to 1.9% and 1.7%, respectively as the consensus had predicted. Meanwhile, retail sales results have caused a downgrade of GDP estimates across the Street".

"The combination of stellar US CPI and weak retail sales data leaves investors in a precarious situation", said one strategist. With tax cuts, record low unemployment, rising wages and high confidence levels suggesting the outlook for spending remains good.

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Oliver Jones of Capital Economics said that his firm believes inflation in the U.S. will rise "before long", with core inflation rising to about 2.2pc in the spring, and continuing to rise after that. The dollar's declines will gradually push up import prices, while energy costs will add to the upside.

The Nasdaq Composite surged 1.8 per cent to 7,143.62.

"Instead we saw an important, albeit slight, rise in core Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) to 1.8% in January, while overall CPI held steady at 2.1%".

In Asia, stocks advanced early on Thursday, taking cues from the rally on Wall Street. "Investors across all asset classes need to pay attention to these signs of overheating because the risks are rising that inflation could appear a lot faster than what the Fed and the market now expect". "Strong price data presents hawkish risks for the Fed's dots at the March meeting".

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