The dollar came under pressure against other currencies after investors began betting on a series of Federal Reserve interest rate cuts next year

Hong Kong (AFP) - Equities surged Wednesday and the dollar struggled after slower-than-forecast US inflation was seen as all but putting to bed any chance of another interest rate hike, and even allowed traders to bet on a series of cuts in the new year.

Investors built on a strong performance on Wall Street – where US Treasury yields also sank – fuelled by a sense of relief sweeping through markets that more than a year of painful tightening may have finally come to an end.

The 3.3 percent reading in the October consumer price index was well down from the 3.7 percent seen in the previous month and 0.1 percentage point below what was expected. Core inflation was also below estimates.

Several Fed officials have lined up in recent months to warn that while inflation has come down from the multi-decade peaks of last year, it remained too high to give up on their rate-hike campaign for fear of prices reflating.

But the latest figures will embolden traders, who are sceptical that the central bank will act on any hawkish instincts for fear of tipping the economy into recession.

Data suggests they are now betting on as much as a one percentage point cut in rates through next year.

“The fact that the US Fed seems to be done with rates and inflation is behind us for now is definitely a positive for all risky assets,” Pooja Malik, of Nipun Capital, told Bloomberg Television, but she warned of the possibility of more volatility over the next 12-18 months.

After Wall Street’s rally that saw the Nasdaq jump more than two percent and the S&P 1.9 percent, Asia picked up the baton.

Tech giants helped push Hong Kong more than two percent higher, Tokyo added two percent, while Sydney, Seoul, Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta were all up more than one percent.

Shanghai, Singapore and Manila were also in positive territory.

And the dollar remained under pressure, having dropped against its major peers, though the yen’s rally was tempered by news that Japan’s economy shrank more than forecast in the third quarter.

The greenback was down two percent against the South Korean won, Australian dollar and South African rand, while it was also well off versus the Mexican peso, Canadian dollar, Thai baht and Chinese yuan.

“The last of investors not convinced the Fed is done are likely ‘throwing in the towel’,” Bryce Doty, of Sit Fixed Income Advisors, said.

Still, Fed officials remain cautious, with Chicago boss Austan Goolsbee saying that “progress continues, though we still have a way to go”.

He added: “There are always some bumps in the road as inflation comes down.”

However, he was increasingly hopeful the economy could be on track for a soft landing, where inflation is brought to heel and the economy remains healthy.

Richmond chief Thomas Barkin was “just not convinced that inflation is on some smooth glide path down to two percent”, which is the bank’s target.

Meanwhile, Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, added that while the figures were good, he thought inflation was a little more sticky than they showed.

“I still think you should prepare (for the fact the Fed) may need to do a little bit more,” he told Bloomberg.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 2.0 percent at 33,341.56 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 2.4 percent at 17,811.09

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,070.56

Dollar/yen: UP at 150.54 from 150.37 yen on Tuesday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2486 from $1.2496

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0874 from $1.0880

Euro/pound: UP at 87.08 pence from 87.05 pence

West Texas Intermediate: FLAT at $78.27 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.1 percent at $82.51 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 1.4 percent at 34,827.70 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,440.47 (close)