Equities have slid on the prospect of US interest rates going even higher than expected

London (AFP) - Stock markets mainly fell Wednesday and the dollar held near multi-month highs after Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell warned a quicker pace of interest rate hikes might be needed to tame stubbornly-high inflation.

Paris and London sagged but Frankfurt edged into positive territory on news of rebounding German industrial production.

Asian indices mostly ended lower after the Fed chief on Tuesday dealt a hammer blow to faint hopes that that the US central bank could pause its rate tightening soon.

All eyes are on Wall Street’s reopen after it slid Tuesday.

“Hawkish comments yesterday from Federal Reserve chairman… Powell made it perfectly clear that US interest rates would keep going up, potentially faster and harder than markets had previously priced in,” noted AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

Europe and US stocks already sank Tuesday following Powell’s remarks, while the greenback soared on the prospect of US rates reaching levels higher than forecast.

“The latest economic data have come in stronger than expected, which suggests that the ultimate level of interest rates is likely to be higher than previously anticipated,” Powell said in testimony to US lawmakers.

“If the totality of the data were to indicate that faster tightening is warranted, we would be prepared to increase the pace of rate hikes.”

He added that Fed officials would “stay the course until the job is done”.

A string of data in recent weeks has indicated the world’s top economy being in rude health.

Investors are now betting on the Fed to lift rates 50 basis points at its meeting this month.

That would be twice as much as its last gathering.

“Given the strength of recent data, the change of tone (by Powell) should not have been surprising,” noted CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

US inflation is running above six percent and while that is down from multi-decade peaks seen last year, it is still well above the bank’s target of two percent.

Traders eagerly await US monthly jobs data due Friday.

Tokyo’s stock market was another rare gainer Wednesday, with exporters profiting from a weaker yen.

The dollar maintained strength Wednesday to hold at multi-month highs against the euro, pound and yen.

A strong US unit is weighing on dollar-denominated crude prices, which become more expensive for customers purchasing in other currencies.

The oil market steadied Wednesday after tumbling more than three percent in the wake of Powell’s comments.

- Key figures around 1215 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,911.59 points

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,330.63

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.3 percent at 15,598.78

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.1 percent at 4,284.49

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 2.4 percent at 20,051.25 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 28,444.19 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,283.25 (close)

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.7 percent at 32,856.46 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0536 from $1.0549 on Tuesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.1834 from $1.1830

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.02 pence from 89.18 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 137.61 yen from 137.16 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $77.41 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.1 percent at $83.38 per barrel