Asian markets rally stutters, focus turns to Fed meeting

HONG KONG (AFP) – Equities were mixed in Asia yesterday as investors appeared to run out of steam after an extended rally fuelled by economic recovery hopes as coronavirus restrictions are eased around the world.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) said a record number of new virus cases were recorded globally on Monday – with Latin America, India and Russia heavily affected – European nations pressed ahead with easing strict lockdowns that have likely sent the planet into recession.

Among the latest moves, Cyprus welcomed its first tourist flights in almost three months, while France announced the Eiffel Tower would reopen on June 25.

Investor focus is on the end of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later in the day, the first since the United States (US) began to reopen and tomorrow’s blockbuster jobs report.

The bank’s decision will be closely watched, though most observers do not expect it to further ease monetary policy, having pledged vast sums of cash as a backstop to financial markets.

A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

“The relentless rebound in equity markets continues to endure, suggesting no one is willing to call a top,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes. “But the primary question remains: has the market’s recovery bought the Fed some time not to use all its bullets, or will they keep the pedal to the metal?”

He added, “The Fed orchestrated this market recovery, and (is) now set to offer its latest thoughts, estimates and, hopefully for market sentiment, an actionable go-forward plan.”

Tokyo, Sydney, Mumbai, Seoul, Taipei and Bangkok were all in positive territory but Shanghai, Manila, Jakarta and Wellington were lower.

Hong Kong dipped after seven days of gains, though troubled airline Cathay Pacific was up more than one per cent, having soared almost 19 per cent at the open a day after announcing a multibillion-dollar government-led bailout plan. London, Paris and Frankfurt were all well up soon after the open.

The US rally stuttered with the Dow and S&P 500 dropping on Tuesday as observers begin to worry that the surge since March’s troughs across markets may have gone too far. “It would be no great surprise to see a period of market consolidation now as investors await decisive news on the coronavirus front to determine the direction of the next big market moves,” Paul O’Connor at Janus Henderson Investors said.

The lingering optimism provided support to higher-yielding, riskier currencies, with the South Korean won and Australian dollar up 0.5 per cent against the dollar, while the Chinese yuan edged up 0.3 per cent.