Asian shares lurch lower

SYDNEY – Asian shares faltered on Wednesday and bonds were sold off as risk appetite soured after comments from new Federal Reserve Chair revived fears about faster rate rises in the United States.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.2 per cent, on track for a second straight day of losses.

It is down more than 4 per cent in February after global equity markets were mauled at the start of the month by worries US inflation is picking up.

Japan’s Nikkei eased 0.2 per cent while South Korea’s KOSPI index ticked higher. Australian shares slipped 0.4 per cent.

Jerome Powell noted in his semi-annual testimony on Tuesday that the US economy was strong, inflation was ticking higher and that the global backdrop was better than in December.

When asked about likely catalysts for more than three rate hikes in 2018, he said each member would write a new “dot plot” rate path ahead of the March meeting and that he wouldn’t want to prejudge that outcome. Equity markets in Europe and Wall Street turned south with the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq falling more than 1 per cent each.

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