Asian markets drop as traders eye higher-for-longer rates

Asian markets drop as traders eye higher-for-longer rates

Bets on more Federal Reserve interest rate hikes have pushed the dollar up against its main peers
Bets on more Federal Reserve interest rate hikes have pushed the dollar up against its main peers. Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP/File
Source: AFP

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Asian markets fell Friday on the prospect of more interest rate hikes after two Federal Reserve officials hinted at ramping up its monetary tightening campaign in the face of stubbornly high inflation.

Data showing the US wholesale price index eased slightly last month but rose more than forecast, reinforcing the view that the central bank still had much more work to do to defeat inflation -- even after almost a year of lifting borrowing costs.

The reading came as other figures from the United States showed consumer prices came down slower than expected and retail sales surged, while jobs creation smashed estimates and unemployment claims came in on the soft side.

Markets last month rallied on hopes the Fed would be able to pause its hiking cycle soon -- or even cut rates by the end of the year -- but now there is a realisation that more increases are needed to get inflation back to the bank's two percent target.

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"You will not sustainably get to two percent inflation when you have a labour market that is this tight," Steve Chiavarone, of Federated Hermes, told Bloomberg News. "It is so completely out of whack."

The tighter policy environment has renewed fears on trading floors that the US economy will tip into recession.

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St Louis Fed boss James Bullard and his Cleveland counterpart Loretta Mester on Thursday became the latest monetary policymakers to warn further hikes were in the pipeline.

Bullard warned: "My overall judgment is it will be a long battle against inflation, and we'll probably have to continue to show inflation-fighting resolve as we go through 2023."

He also said he would not rule out doubling the next rate increase to 50 basis points next month, a view shared by Mester.

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"As we showed, when the economy calls for it, we can move faster, and we can do bigger at any particular meeting. And it's going to be driven by how the economy is evolving," she said, adding that nothing indicated a pause would be in order at the moment.

All three main indexes on Wall Street closed more than one percent lower Thursday, and Asia followed suit.

Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, Shanghai, Seoul, Wellington, Wellington, Taipei and Manila were all in the red.

Bets on higher-for-longer rates sent the dollar rallying against its peers and on Friday it extended them, hitting its strongest level against the yen since early January.

And oil fell further on concerns about recession and the impact on demand, compounded by data showing US stockpiles at their highest since 2021.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.6 percent at 27,537.36 (break)

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Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.5 percent at 20,884.58

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,246.26

Dollar/yen: UP at 134.58 yen from 133.96 yen on Thursday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0652 from $1.0673

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.1952 from $1.1983

Euro/pound: UP at 89.12 pence from 89.04 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $78.49 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $85.14 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.3 percent at 33,696.85 points (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 8,012.53 (close)

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Source: AFP

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