* Fed outlines plan to reduce bond holdings
* U.S. retail sales, consumer inflation weak
* Deteriorating U.S. political climate undercuts risk
* Oil slump on U.S. gasoline inventory
* European shares seen steady to slightly weaker
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, June 15 U.S. stock futures and Asian
shares slid on Thursday, hit by soft U.S. economic data, a
relatively hawkish Federal Reserve and a media report that U.S.
President Donald Trump is being investigated by a special
counsel for possible obstruction of justice.
S&P mini futures dipped as much as 0.3 percent, while
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
dropped 0.7 percent, led by resource shares.
Japan's Nikkei fell 0.3 percent.
European shares were expected to get off to a tentative
start, with spread-betters looking at a flat open in Germany's
DAX and a 0.1 percent fall in Britain's FTSE.
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates as expected on
Wednesday and gave a first clear outline on its plan to reduce
its $4.2-trillion portfolio of bonds.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the process could start
"relatively soon", while projections of the Fed board members
also showed they expect one more rate hike by the end of year.
A majority of Wall Street's top banks now expect the Fed to
start reducing re-investment in bonds in September, compared to
their previous median forecast of such a move in December.
Yet the Fed's decision and confidence in continued U.S.
economic growth was over-shadowed by surprisingly weak data
released earlier in the day.
"The Federal Reserve was a little bit more hawkish than
market expectations. They are following up on their plan
outlined in March even as inflation has fallen short of forecast
for three months in a row," said Tomoaki Shishido, senior
economist at Nomura Securities.
Consumer prices unexpectedly fell on month in May and the
annual increase in core CPI slipped to 1.7 percent, the smallest
rise since May 2015, after advancing 1.9 percent in April.
Investors' inflation expectations gauged by the spread
between the 10-year inflation-linked bonds and
conventional bonds fell to 1.726 percent, completely wiping out
its rise since the U.S. presidential election.
Retail sales fell 0.3 percent last month - the largest fall
since January 2016 and way below economists' expectations for a
0.1 percent gain - amid declining purchases of motor vehicles
and discretionary spending.
Risk sentiment was also hit by fear of more U.S. political
turmoil after the Washington Post reported that Trump is being
investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible
obstruction of justice.
Mueller is investigating alleged Russian interference in the
2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with the
Trump campaign. Trump's legal team denounced the report.
The news came just after the No. 3 Republican in the House
of Representatives, Steve Scalise, was shot by a gunman angry
with Trump and other Republicans. Scalise was listed in critical
The weak U.S. data had knocked the dollar and U.S. bond
yields to its lowest level in seven months against a basket of
The dollar index was little changed on
Thursday after sliding to as low as 96.323 on Wednesday, having
shed nearly 6 percent on the year, before bouncing back a tad on
the Fed's policy tightening.
The euro traded at $1.1220, after scaling a
seven-month high of $1.1296. The dollar fetched 109.54 yen
, not far from Wednesday's eight-week low of 108.81 yen.
The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield had slipped to
as low as 2.103 percent and last stood at 2.134 percent.
"You cannot help the impression that there is a gap between
the Fed's bullish inflation forecast and the weakness in actual
data," said Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui
"The Fed seems to think the weakness is temporary. But that
view will be tested in coming months," he added.
Money market instruments such as Fed fund futures
show market players see the likelihood of one more rate hike
this year as less than 50 percent.
Following the Fed's rate hike, China's central bank left
interest rates for open market operations unchanged on Thursday,
unlike in March when it lifted short-term interest rates in what
economists said was a bid to stave off capital outflows and
further depreciation pressure on the yuan.
Analysts had been split on whether China would follow the
Fed again, noting the yuan is in much better shape than a few
months ago after authorities' recent moves to flush out
depreciation bets against the currency.
The yuan held stable in early trade, trading at 6.7854 per
dollar in the offshore trade.
The British pound stood little changed at $1.2746
ahead of the Bank of England's policy meeting that is widely
expected to keep interest rates on hold.
Crude oil prices were listless after having slumped nearly 4
percent to their lowest close in seven months on Wednesday, on
an unexpected large build in gasoline inventories.
Brent crude futures fetched $46.83 per barrel in
late Asian trade, flat on the day but not far from a five-month
low of $46.64 touched in early May.
Many other commodity prices are also under pressure. Thomson
Reuters CRB index tumbled to 14-month lows, having
fallen almost 12 percent from this year's high hit in January.
(Editing by Kim Coghill)