Markets fell in Asia on Thursday following a painful sell-off in New York fueled by bets that the Federal Reserve will embark on an aggressive campaign to fight soaring inflation by hiking interest rates several times. The much-anticipated release of minutes from the US central bank’s December policy meeting showed that while officials were concerned about the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant, they were confident the world’s top economy was in rude health and able to absorb high borrowing costs. The Federal Open Market Committee has already started winding back the vast bond-buying stimulus put in place at the start of the pandemic as price rises remain stubbornly high, with the programme due to end in March. Traders had widely expected the bank to then start lifting rates. Policymakers had said they would not remove their support until it was happy it had unemployment tamed and inflation was running persistently hot. Both appear to have been achieved or close to it. Now officials are ready to act, with the Fed minutes saying, “It may become warranted to increase the federal funds rate sooner or at a faster pace than participants had earlier anticipated.” The move away from massive central bank support around the world, particularly from the Fed, has rattled markets in recent months, having notched up a series of records or multi-year highs on the cheap cash. With the punch bowl being taken away, traders are in retreat, particularly those invested in tech firms, which are more susceptible to higher borrowing costs. On Wall Street, the Nasdaq plunged more than three percent, while the Dow and S&P 500, which both started the week with new records, lost more than one percent.