Asian markets mixed as US rate saga plays against China reopening

Asian markets mixed as US rate saga plays against China reopening

Minneapolis Fed boss Neel Kashkari has warned interest rates must go higher and for longer to bring inflation under control
Minneapolis Fed boss Neel Kashkari has warned interest rates must go higher and for longer to bring inflation under control. Photo: CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP
Source: AFP

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Stocks were mixed in Asia on Thursday after the previous day's rally but trading was subdued as Federal Reserve interest rate hike worries returned to the agenda with two top officials warning more tightening will be needed to slay inflation.

The region enjoyed a much-needed day in the sun Wednesday after forecast-busting Chinese factory data reinforced optimism the world's number two economy will bounce back strongly this year as it emerges from its pandemic isolation.

However, the long-running saga over prices, borrowing costs and recession speculation returned to the fore in US trading.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed in the red after the comments from Fed policymakers Raphael Bostic and Neel Kashkari, which pointed to rates going higher than feared and for an extended period.

Atlanta Fed chief Bostic warned they could go well above five percent, adding that once inflation had come down to the bank's two percent target officials should not loosen policy too soon.

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"History teaches that if we ease up on inflation before it is thoroughly subdued, it can flare anew," he wrote. "That happened with disastrous results in the 1970s."

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And Minneapolis boss Kashkari said he was still "open-minded" about backing a 50-basis-point hike at the next policy meeting, double the most recent increase.

"We’re not yet seeing much of a sign of our interest-rate increases slowing down the services sector of the economy and that is concerning to me," he said.

"Wage growth is at a level that it actually is too high to be consistent" with the Fed's two percent target.

There is a growing expectation rates will top out around 5.5 percent, though some commentators are tipping six percent, from the current 4.5-4.75 percent.

The comments came as fresh data showed the US Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing report showed a jump in the prices index, while the yield on 10-year US Treasuries -- a proxy for future rates -- broke four percent for the first time since November.

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And inflation continues to hold up in Europe.

In early Asian trade, Hong Kong retreated after a four percent surge Wednesday, while Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Wellington and Taipei were also in the red.

However, Sydney, Seoul, Manila and Jakarta edged higher.

Still, the China reopening narrative provided some support for nervous investors.

"The good news out of China is what the market has really needed at this point where globally we are seeing these inflation concerns not dying out," Charu Chanana, of Saxo Capital Markets, told Bloomberg Television.

However, she added that even this could prove problematic for those worried about inflation.

"The China reopening story adds cyclical upside pressure because of the sheer amount of demand that China can create," she said.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 27,495.69 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.7 percent at 20,481.46

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Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,310.01

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2003 from $1.2024 on Wednesday

Euro/pound: UP at 88.73 pence from 88.71 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0650 from $1.0672

Dollar/yen: UP at 136.39 from 136.17 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.1 percent at $77.75 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.1 percent at $84.38 per barrel

New York - Dow: FLAT at 32,661.84 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 7,914.43 (close)

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Source: AFP

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