By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gauge of global stock markets stumbled for a second straight day on Wednesday as a reading on inflation did little to alter expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will stay aggressive in fighting inflation, while the yen jumped as Japan indicated it could move to prop up the weak currency.
MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe saw its biggest one-day percentage decline in three months on Tuesday after inflation data for August showed consumer prices unexpectedly rose, locking in investor expectations for a rate hike of at least 75 basis points at the Fed's policy meeting next week and possibly even hiking by 100 basis points, according to CME's FedWatch Tool https://www.cmegroup.com/trading/interest-rates/countdown-to-fomc.html?redirect=/trading/interest-rates/fed-funds.html.
Wednesday's inflation data was more benign, showing producer prices (PPI) declined for a second straight month in August as gasoline prices fell further, but was not enough for investors to reconsider the Fed's aggressive stance.
"The PPI was a pleasant surprise but the PPI can be so volatile, that is one of the reasons why it just wasn’t compelling enough, it was a noisy data point just because that is the nature of the PPI," said Brian Jacobsen, senior investment strategist at Allspring Global Investments in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
"The Fed never really talks about producer prices, they always talk about consumer prices and how household spending is holding in and household income, that is why investors have kind of dismissed it."
Stocks on Wall Street fluctuated between modest gains and losses in choppy trade before closing higher. Union Pacific shares were down 3.69% as U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh held talks in Washington with freight railroad and union officials in an attempt to avoid a rail shutdown as early as Friday. A shutdown would exacerbate supply chain issues and potentially lead to higher inflation.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 30.12 points, or 0.1%, to 31,135.09 the S&P 500 gained 13.32 points, or 0.34%, to 3,946.01 and the Nasdaq Composite added 86.10 points, or 0.74%, to 11,719.68.
European stocks closed lower for a second straight session with rate hike concerns the primary driver. The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.86% and MSCI's Alll Country World index shed 0.33%. The two day percentage drop for MSCI's index was its largest in three months.
In currency markets, the yen pulled away from recent 24-year lows versus the dollar after the Bank of Japan conducted a rate check with banks on Wednesday in apparent preparation to step in to tame sharp yen falls, although analysts said the strengthening was likely to be short-lived.
The Japanese yen strengthened 0.95% versus the greenback at 143.19 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.1536, up 0.39% on the day.
The dollar index fell 0.155%, with the euro up 0.07% to $0.9977.
Concerns about high inflation lingering and the Fed outlook kept upward pressure on U.S. Treasury yields. The two-year U.S. Treasury yield, which typically moves in step with interest rate expectations, was up 4 basis points at 3.797% after touching a fresh 15-year high at 3.834%.
A closely watched part of the U.S. Treasury yield curve measuring the gap between yields on two- and 10-year Treasury notes, seen as an indicator of economic expectations and a reliable recession indicator when inverted, was at a negative 38.5 basis points.
Oil prices advanced as an international energy watchdog expects an increase in gas-to-oil switching due to high prices this winter, even though the outlook for demand remains subdued.
U.S. crude settled up 1.34% at $88.48 per barrel and Brent settled at $94.10, up 1% on the day.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Nick Zieminski and Diane Craft)