February 14, 2018 / 2:28 PM / 4 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures sink as strong inflation data raises rate hike fears

* U.S. consumer prices rise 0.5 pct in January vs est 0.3 pct

* Surprise drop in Jan retail sales raises econ growth fears

* U.S. 10-year bond yields hit session highs after CPI data

* Futures down: Dow 276 pts, S&P 27.75 pts, Nasdaq 74.75 pts

* U.S. stock futures reverse course after the strong CPI data (Adds more comment, details on the data, updates prices)

By Sruthi Shankar

Feb 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stock futures reversed course to fall more than 1 percent on Wednesday after data showed U.S. consumer prices rose more than expected in January, with core inflation posting its biggest gain in a year.

That again stoked fears that interest rates will increase faster than expected, sending benchmark U.S bond yields to session highs and further quelling investors’ interest in the stock market.

The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent last month as households paid more for gasoline, rental accommodation and healthcare. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast an increase of 0.3 percent.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI shot up 0.3 percent, the largest increase since January 2017. However, the year-on-year rise in the so-called core CPI was unchanged at 1.8 percent in January.

Separately, a report showed U.S. retail sales decreased 0.3 percent last month, the biggest fall in nearly a year and a surprise drop compared with economists’ expectations of a 0.2 percent increase. The weak number raised some concerns about economic growth.

“In some ways you would say this is the worst possible number for U.S. equities: extremely weak U.S. retail sales and a higher CPI. I think there is less to the numbers than meets the eye, however,” Steven Englander, head of research and strategy at Rafiki Capital in New York, said.

“It does play into the fears that we are getting into a different inflation regime than we were before. The last ten years was below target inflation and now the expectations are adjusting upwards, which means the Fed is not as friendly.”

By 9:10 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 152 points, or 0.62 percent, with 81,595 contracts changing hands. S&P 500 e-minis were down 16 points, or 0.6 percent, with 433,260 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 44.5 points, or 0.68 percent, on volume of 92,441 contracts.

U.S stock futures were higher by about 0.5 percent ahead of the inflation data released at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The strong CPI data added to fears of firming inflation that was ignited by a strong January jobs report on Feb. 2, which was a trigger for last week’s sell-off in the stock market.

The yields on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury bonds rose to a session high of 2.8730 percent after falling to 2.8222 percent earlier. They hit a four-year high of 2.902 on Monday.

The CBOE Volatility index, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, was last at 23.52 points. They had eased to a week low of 22.81, after shooting above 50 points at the peak of last week’s declines. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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