Asian markets rise as positive mood flows across trading floors

Asian markets rise as positive mood flows across trading floors

Hopes that the Federal Reserve has finished hiking interest rates has helped send markets higher in recent weeks
Hopes that the Federal Reserve has finished hiking interest rates has helped send markets higher in recent weeks. Photo: MOHD RASFAN / AFP
Source: AFP

Asian investors started August in the same way they ended July, with gains across markets that followed Wall Street's lead, fuelled by a general sense of optimism about the economic outlook.

Bets on the Federal Reserve calling it a day on its interest rate hiking cycle have been a key driver of buying for weeks as inflation continues to drop while the economy remains robust.

That has been compounded by China's recent promises of stimulus measures to kickstart growth, as a string of data showed the country's post-Covid recovery has all but puffed out.

Traders are now keeping a close eye on earnings this week from tech titans Apple and Amazon, and US jobs at the end of the week that could provide an idea about the Fed's thinking.

The central banks of Britain and Australia are also due to announce rate decisions.

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On Monday, Chicago Fed boss Austan Goolsbee left open the possibility of pausing or stopping interest rate hikes at the bank's next policy meeting in September.

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"Thus far we're on the golden path and we've got to walk that line," Goolsbee told Yahoo! Finance, referring to the path of lowering inflation without triggering a major recession.

He said the slowdown in inflation was "fabulous news", echoing comments from Minneapolis chief Neel Kashkari, who called the readings "quite positive".

"As we approach the middle of summer, there is a prevailing belief among people on the street that the Federal Reserve has probably made its final rate hike in the current cycle," said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.

"This is due to the evident decrease in inflation pressures.

"The current economic conditions, including decreasing inflation, a pause in Federal Reserve tightening, and steady or increasing growth, could create an ideal situation for the stock market."

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Asia joins Wall St rally on US rates, China hopes

All three main indexes on Wall Street ended on a positive note, with the S&P 500 at a 16-month high.

And the rally filtered through to Asia, where Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Manila all pushed higher.

Data out of China showing the country's factory activity shrank last month reinforced expectations the government will continue to unveil economic support measures.

On Monday, officials announced a 20-point plan to boost consumption, touching on housing, culture and tourism.

The announcement comes after top leaders last week said in a meeting the economy was facing "new difficulties and challenges" and agreed to "implement precise and effective macroeconomic regulation, strengthen countercyclical regulation and policy reserves".

With the mood among investors broadly positive, analysts who had warned of another tough week for markets were changing their outlooks.

Michael Wilson at Morgan Stanley had been downbeat but now sees more legs in the latest rally.

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"The challenges companies have endured -- stubborn inflation, weak markets, and sluggishness internationally -- are no longer headwinds," he said.

"Now, we're not only seeing tailwinds heading into 2024, but we're getting less disruptive reactions in the stock market following earnings reports."

On currency markets, the yen weakened further as the Bank of Japan's decision to loosen its grip on monetary policy failed to provide support.

The central bank's tweak means its policy is still much looser than others and observers say it will likely be so for some time.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 33,418.53 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.0 percent at 20,283.06

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,304.99

Dollar/yen: UP at 142.72 yen from 142.28 yen on Monday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0986 from $1.0997

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2819 from $1.2834

Euro/pound: UP at 85.70 from 85.67 pence

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US Fed's inflation fight enters new phase

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $81.67 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $85.27 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 35,559.53 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,699.41 (close)

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Source: AFP

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