Hong Kong (AFP): Asian markets on Friday tracked a Wall Street rally after a top Federal Reserve official said he would back a small interest-rate hike at its next meeting but hinted at a possible summer pause to see how tighter policy has impacted inflation.
A strong run of data sent chills through trading floors in February — wiping out almost all January’s rally — as investors realised the US central bank had more work to do to control prices.
The unease largely overshadowed optimism about China’s recovery after officials ended three years of strict zero-Covid containment measures that battered the world’s number two economy.
Several Fed policymakers have lined up this year to insist that while inflation is coming down, they remain determined to keep hiking rates until they hit their two percent target.
The latest indicators have led investors to bet on rates hitting a peak of 5.5 percent, though six percent has also been mooted, putting further downward pressure on equities.
However, while talk has been swirling that the central bank could hike rates by 50 basis points at its March meeting, traders were given some much-needed hope by Atlanta Fed chief Raphael Bostic, who said he favoured a 25-point move.
He also questioned whether it should go much higher than 5.25 percent from the current 4.5-4.75 percent. That would allow the bank to pause its tightening in the summer.
“I let the data guide me,” he said. “If the data continue to come in suggesting the economy is stronger than I had projected, I’ll adjust my policy trajectory.”
His comments came after he and Minneapolis boss Neel Kashkari called for more hikes and for rates to be held for some time into next year.
Meanwhile, figures released Thursday showed that eurozone inflation remained sticky in February, leading European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde to say more tightening was needed.
All three main indexes on Wall Street ended in the green, with the Dow up more than one percent.
And much of Asia followed suit. Tokyo piled on more than one percent, while Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta also enjoyed their time in the sun.
SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes said that while markets remained uncertain, “unlike last year, where policy shocks drove market shifts through most of the year, this year’s price action has been driven as much by improving global growth as by tighter global policy”.
“Indeed, that is a more digestible mix for stock market operators. Still, the uptick in January inflation has muddied this picture and caused a fair bit of panic in market circles.”
However, he warned: “As long as activity data remain too strong, fanning the inflation fires, the real vulnerability for risk assets is a definitive hawkish policy shift, particularly from Chair (Jerome) Powell, who represents the core members.”
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.5 percent at 27,898.37 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.5 percent at 20,525.29
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,316.24 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0609 from $1.0599 on Thursday
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.1967 from $1.1949
Euro/pound: DOWN at 88.65 pence from 88.68 pence
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 136.58 yen from 136.73 yen
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.4 percent at $77.88 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $84.46 per barrel
New York – Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 33,003.57 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.4 at 7,944.04 (close)
Tokyo stocks open higher on US gains, cheap yen
Tokyo, March 3 (AFP/APP):Tokyo stocks opened higher Friday, helped by a cheap yen and US rallies on bargain-hunting despite worries over tighter US monetary policy.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up 0.70 percent, or 192.37 points, at 27,691.24 in early trade, while the broader Topix index added 0.64 percent, or 12.73 points, to 2,007.30.
“The Japanese market is expected to start with gains following rallies in US stocks and a cheap yen” against the dollar, Monex senior market analyst Toshiyuki Kanayama said in a note.
The dollar fetched 136.69 yen in early Asian trade, against 136.73 yen in New York and 136.40 yen in Tokyo on Thursday.
Overnight, US equities forged higher in one of the most upbeat sessions in weeks.
Wall Street shares rose as “worries eased over acceleration in the pace of rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve, after Atlanta Fed President (Raphael) Bostic showed his support for a quarter-point rate hike” in the Fed’s meeting this month, Kanayama noted.
Japan’s jobless rate in January stood at 2.4 percent, down from 2.5 percent in December, according to data released by the internal affairs ministry before the opening bell.
The data did not prompt a strong market reaction.
Among major shares, Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing was up 3.87 percent at 28,200 yen, Sony Group was up 0.66 percent at 11,455 yen, and construction machine maker Komatsu was up 0.86 percent at 3,394 yen.
Nippon Steel was up 0.90 percent at 3,144 yen after a report said it is considering a major investment in a green steel project powered by hydrogen outside Japan, which may cost an estimated 100 billion yen ($733 million) or more.