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Rate Hike Fear Drags Down Stocks

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A global gauge of stocks fell on Tuesday, weighed down by Wall Street on concerns that strong U.S. inflation data could bring closer an expected rate hike from the Federal Reserve.

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The U.S. dollar, expected to strengthen if the Fed tightens monetary policy, was little changed. Crude oil futures touched multi-month highs.

A Fed policymaker said he will push for an interest rate hike in June or July and two others still see up to three rate increases this year, leaving the door open to a change in monetary policy relatively soon.

U.S. consumer prices recorded their biggest increase in more than three years in April, while housing starts rose more than expected last month.

"The equity market is taking cues from stronger data and some of the comments from Fed members in terms of maybe hiking more than is priced into the market," said Patrick Maldari, senior fixed income investment specialist at Aberdeen Asset Management in New York.

Traders now see the probability of a rate hike after the Fed's November meeting at 58 percent, up from roughly 42 percent on Monday, according to the CME FedWatch tool.

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On Wall Street, stocks were led lower by the more defensive, high-dividend paying sectors, which tend to be sold when more investors expect higher rates.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 180.73 points, or 1.02 percent, to 17,529.98, the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 19.45 points, or 0.94 percent, to 2,047.21 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 59.73 points, or 1.25 percent, to 4,715.73.

The S&P all but erased its gain for this year.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 share index <.FTEU3> ended down 0.03 percent, while MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe <.MIWD00000PUS> fell 0.32 percent.

In the currency market, the British pound rose as much as 0.9 percent to $1.4524 <GBP=>, helped in part by a report that the "In" campaign held a 15-point lead over rival "Out" ahead of Britain's June 23 referendum on European Union membership. It was last up 0.4 percent at $1.4457.

The dollar index hovered near unchanged as traders doubted the U.S. inflation data was enough to push the Fed closer to tightening policy. The yen <JPY=> was down 0.06 percent versus the greenback at 109.07 per dollar and the euro <EUR=> was little changed at $1.1314.

"If you are a hawk, you could see the CPI as being higher. But in reality, the numbers were pretty much on consensus," said Richard Scalone, co-head of foreign exchange at TJM Brokerage in Chicago, in reference to Fed policymakers considered "hawks" for favoring tighter monetary policy.

Yields for two-year Treasury notes <US2YT=RR> rose as high as 0.831 percent on the strong inflation data, their highest since April 27. Three-year notes <US3YT=RR> hit their highest since April 28, touching 0.981 percent.

Benchmark 10-year notes <US10YT=RR> fell 3/32 in price to yield 1.762 percent, up from 1.753 percent on Monday.

U.S. crude prices hit seven-month highs on expectations of lower U.S. stockpiles. U.S. oil <CLc1> touched $48.60, the highest since mid-October, and was recently up 1.7 percent at $48.55.

Brent crude <LCOc1> hit $49.59 per barrel, a more than six-month high, and last traded at $49.46, up 1.0 percent on the day.

Copper <CMCU3> ticked up 0.3 percent to $4,657 per tonne.

Spot gold <XAU=> was up 0.4 percent at $1,278.66 an ounce.

 

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, additional reporting by Sam Forgione and Barani Krishnan; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)

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