Marketmind: Mixed inflation signals

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FILE PHOTO: Investors stand in front of an electronic board showing stock information on the first trading day after the week-long Lunar New Year holiday at a brokerage house in Shanghai

(Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in Asian markets from Jamie McGeever

As the U.S. inflation debate intensifies, the signals are getting murkier.

For investors, this makes markets more skittish and day-to- day moves harder to predict, and makes Fed forecasting even more difficult than it already is.

On Wednesday, the headline U.S. services ISM purchasing managers index reading for September was surprisingly strong, declining far less than expected to 56.7 from 56.9. ADP employment figures for September were also stronger than expected.

On the other hand, the ISM prices paid index fell to 68.7, the lowest since January last year. And Tuesday’s “JOLTS” jobs data show job openings fell in August at the fastest pace in nearly 2-1/2 years.

Oil prices spiked higher on Wednesday after OPEC+ announced a whopping 2 million barrels a day production cut, yet Brent’s year-on-year rise – which factors into inflation forecasting models – is ‘only’ 13%.

Graphic: Brent oil – futures and year-on-year change –

Also this week, U.S. breakeven inflation rates on inflation-linked bonds, from two-years maturities out to 20 years, have slid as low as 2.15% – close to the Fed’s 2% inflation goal – while the University of Michigan’s consumer inflation expectations have fallen too.

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Another four Fed officials will be on the tapes on Thursday, hopefully shedding some much-needed light on the inflation debate. For now, it seems like investors are itching for the Fed to pivot, but are not fully confident one would be merited.

Wall Street clawed back opening losses on Wednesday despite the spike in Treasury yields to keep its solid start to the quarter on track. The S&P 500’s surge of 5.7% was its best start to a new quarter in decades.

Key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Thursday:

India services PMI (September)

Australia trade balance (August)

Philippines unemployment (August)

Euro zone retail sales (August)

Fed’s Mester, Cook, Evans and Waller speak

IMF’s Georgieva speaks ahead of IMF/World Bank meetings

(Reporting by Jamie NcGeever in Orlando, Fla.; Editing by Josie Kao)