Asian markets mixed as traders eye rate cuts

Asian markets mixed as traders eye rate cuts

While the Bank of England is expected to keep monetary policy unchanged, there are hopes it could start cutting interest rates in the summer
While the Bank of England is expected to keep monetary policy unchanged, there are hopes it could start cutting interest rates in the summer. Photo: HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP
Source: AFP

Asian traders fought to get a recent rally back on course Thursday following a tepid lead from Wall Street but record performance in Europe highlighted optimism that central banks were on course to cut interest rates.

London chalked up another all-time high ahead of a Bank of England meeting many hope will see officials flag their intention to begin normalising monetary policy in the summer.

That comes after Sweden's central bank reduced borrowing costs for the first time in eight years and cited more were in the pipeline.

The Riksbank decision was announced nearly two months after the Swiss National Bank became the first major Western central bank to move since a global tightening campaign to fight inflation fuelled by Covid recovery and the Ukraine war.

Traders hoping for Federal Reserve cuts have been on a rollercoaster ride this year as a string of forecast-beating inflation readings have forced them to chip away at their expectations.

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The consensus is now about two by January, against six estimated at the start of 2024.

And a number of Fed decision-makers have also looked to temper expectations, with the latest being Boston Fed president, Susan Collins who said rates would likely need to stay at their two-decade highs for longer to bring prices under control.

Her comments were not dissimilar to those made by her Minneapolis counterpart Neel Kashkari the day before.

Still, a healthy run of corporate results, soothing comments from Fed boss Jerome Powell over the prospect of a rate hike and a sharp miss on US jobs last month have put a skip in traders' step in the past week.

And analysts are still broadly positive for the outlook on equities.

"Despite the lack of good news on inflation, there is a silver lining for patient investors," Mark Hackett, of Nationwide, said.

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Markets mixed as traders weigh rates outlook

"As the Federal Reserve extends the timeline for interest rate cuts, historical data shows that longer Fed pauses often correlate with better equity returns. This should give investors reasons to be optimistic."

After London's record, and gains in Paris and Frankfurt were followed by a mixed performance in New York, Asia struggled.

Hong Kong resumed its upward momentum, having fallen for two days after a ten-day winning streak, while Tokyo, Shanghai and Manila were also up.

But Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Wellington and Taipei edged down.

Oil prices ticked up for a second day as investors keep tabs of efforts for a ceasefire in the Middle East, even as Israel presses ahead with an assault on Rafah in southern Gaza.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 38,392.10 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.7 percent at 18,443.12

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,143.64

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Asia tracks another rally on Wall St as US rate optimism lingers

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 155.60 yen from 155.63 yen on Wednesday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0744 from $1.0748

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2493 from $1.2495

Euro/pound: UP at 86.01 from 86.00 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.4 percent at $79.29 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.3 percent at $83.82 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.4 percent at 39,056.39 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 8,354.05 (close)

Source: AFP

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