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Another hot inflation gauge fuels worry

People shop in the produce section of a grocery store on September 12, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

This report is from today’s CNBC Daily Open, our international markets newsletter. CNBC Daily Open brings investors up to speed on everything they need to know, no matter where they are. Like what you see? You can subscribe here.

What you need to know today

Dow tumbles
Wall Street
closed lower Thursday after a key U.S. inflation gauge came in hotter-than-expected and sent Treasury yields higher. The 30-stock Dow lost more than 100 points, or 0.35%, snapping a three-day winning streak. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3%, while the S&P 500 dipped 0.29%.

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Japan’s “shunto” wage negotiations hit fever pitch this week as several corporate giants revealed salary increases. The outcome of these widely anticipated discussions is critical and could influence the Bank of Japan’s decision on when to exit its negative interest rate policy.

Mnuchin on buying Tiktok
Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is putting together an investor group to buy TikTok. “I think the legislation should pass and I think it should be sold,” Mnuchin told CNBC. His comments come after the House passed a bill that could force TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, to sell its stake of the video app or face a ban in the U.S.

HSBC bullish on China
HSBC’s chief financial officer told CNBC the bank is “very positive” about the mid- to long-term outlook for the Chinese economy despite current problems. Growth in China has slowed as the country continues to struggle with a real estate crisis, while exports remain sluggish. 

[PRO] Look beyond Nvidia
Investment firm Fidelity International said investors should look beyond highfliers like Nvidia to ride the AI wave. There are other indirect plays — semiconductor foundries, packaging technology companies and memory companies — that could be potential winners, said the firm.

The bottom line

Yet another inflation gauge came in hot, spelling trouble for the Fed.  

February’s wholesale prices rose faster than expected, well above consensus.

“Very, very poor wholesale inflation report. Obviously, food and energy prices are rising… so that means the Fed will not cut till June or later cause they just don’t have the economic tea leaves they want,” said Louis Navellier, founder of Navellier & Associates, in a commentary.

Wall Street was clearly spooked as Treasury yields came under pressure following the news.

The PPI data comes on the heels of February’s consumer price figures which showed inflation exceeded estimates for a second month.

This underlines the tough balancing act the Fed faces in taming price pressures within the broader economy. It also fuels investor worries on whether the central bank thinks inflation isn’t cooling enough to begin lowering rates.

Mohamed El-Erian, Allianz chief economic advisor, said on X, there “is spreading awareness of how relatively sticky inflation complicates the last mile to the Fed’s 2% inflation target.” 

Some economists even argue the latest economic data will likely push February’s personal consumption expenditures price reading, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge.

“The CPI and PPI data together suggest that the core PCE deflator for February will be reported rising by 0.4%. Our detailed forecast is 0.37%, which would be marginally better than January’s 0.41%, but still much too fast,” Pantheon Macroeconomics wrote. 

“Again, this probably is unsustainable, but the Fed is extremely cautious, and the latest data undoubtedly will make it easier for the hawks to push for a delay,” they added. “Accordingly, we are changing our call for the first cut, which we now expect in June rather than May.”   

But investors have to wait until later this month for the PCE data to get a better sense on the Fed’s calculation.

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