LONDON/SINGAPORE, Feb 28 (Reuters) - World stocks eased on Wednesday as traders held their fire ahead of a U.S. inflation reading later this week that may influence the timing of the Federal Reserve's easing cycle.

European stocks dipped 0.1%, with lacklustre corporate earnings weighing on sentiment, though German stocks bucked the trend to add 0.2%.

Markets across major assets were generally quiet, with investor focus squarely on the U.S. personal consumption expenditures price index for January, the Fed's preferred inflation measure, due on Thursday.

The index is expected to have risen 0.3% on a monthly basis in January, up slightly from the 0.2% increase seen in December, a Reuters poll showed.

A slew of strong economic data, along with sticky inflation, has resulted in traders drastically dialling back their initial expectations of deep and early interest rate cuts from the Fed.

Markets now anticipate June to be the starting point of the easing cycle compared with March at the start of the year.

The PCE data "may provide some insight into the potential pace and path of Fed rate cuts in 2024," UBS analysts wrote in a note. "While the Fed could raise rates again if inflation reaccelerates, our base case is for three rate cuts in 2024 (75 basis points), starting in June."

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, fell 0.2%.

Wall Street was also set to fall, with S&P futures gauges pointing to losses of around 0.3%.

Among other major assets the biggest action was in New Zealand, where its currency fell after the central bank softened its hawkish stance.

Earlier, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.8% lower but hovering around a near seven-month peak. The index is up 4.4% for the month, its strongest February performance in more than a decade.

Chinese stocks slid as investors booked profits after a recent rally, while worries over the property sector lingered after a liquidation petition was filed against developer Country Garden, with blue-chips down 1.3%.

Other data due this week that may shape expectations on the Fed's policy include a second estimate of gross domestic product, jobless claims and manufacturing activity.

Fed policymakers have in recent days pushed back against easing policy too early, with Governor Michelle Bowman on Tuesday saying she was in no rush to cut U.S. interest rates.


Elsewhere, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) held the cash rate steady at 5.5% on Wednesday, reiterating that previous rate hikes had helped dampen prices and saying that the risk of further rate hikes had been reduced.

That sent the New Zealand dollar down more than 1% to a nearly two-week low of $0.6101. The kiwi was last at $0.6111.

"The RBNZ has closed the door to further rate hikes, which was a surprise to somewhat hawkish expectations," said Charu Chanana, head of currency strategy at Saxo.

The dollar index, which measures its performance against six other major currencies, rose 0.3% and was last at 104.11.

In the cryptoverse, bitcoin climbed 3%, breaking $58,000 to notch its latest milestone. The volatile crypto token has gained 39% this month, on course for its best month since January 2023.

U.S. crude fell 0.87% to $78.18 per barrel and Brent was down 0.9% at $82.91, as the prospect of U.S. rates staying higher for longer offset the boost provided by talk of extensions to production cuts from OPEC+.

(Reporting by Tom Wilson in London and Ankur Banerjee in Singapore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Jamie Freed and Tomasz Janowski)