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Equity markets climb as traders eye China stimulus

HONG KONG (AFP) – Hopes China will unveil fresh measures to kickstart its ailing economy lifted markets yesterday, while the dollar struggled to bounce from losses fuelled by bets the Federal Reserve (Fed) is near the end of its tightening cycle.

Optimism is seeping through trading floors after the US central bank on Wednesday decided against lifting interest rates as data suggested the 10 previous straight hikes were beginning to kick in.

That was followed by a cut by the People’s Bank of China that compounded speculation that authorities are about to announce measures to help fire growth as the post-zero-COVID recovery runs out of steam.

A series of lacklustre economic indicators in recent weeks have added to worries about the outlook for the world’s number two economy.

Inflation is just 0.2 per cent, factory activity contracted for the second consecutive month in May, retail sales slowed further last month and youth unemployment has hit a record high.

Bloomberg News reported this month that authorities were planning a rollout of support measures, with the State Council said to target the ailing property sector.

A further loosening of monetary policy to boost lending could also be on the cards as well as more infrastructure spending.

PHOTO: ENVATO

The commerce ministry said on Thursday that promotion of the car, home appliance and catering industries was also on the agenda, Bloomberg said.

“It seems China’s policymakers have had enough and are unwilling to sit idle and watch consumer sentiment crumble,” said SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes.

“This big-time stimulus is geared to stabilise expectations, bring the post-COVID recovery back on track, and build the case for market-based interest rates and the yuan exchange rate to bottom out. At the same time, China’s risk market should flourish as the deflationary haze lifts.”

Hong Kong and Shanghai rallied, while Tokyo reversed early losses as the yen weakened in reaction to the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) decision to maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy.

The Nikkei has now risen for 10 straight weeks, the longest run since February 2013.

Kelvin Wong at OANDA said the bank’s statement “suggested that BoJ is not in a ‘rush mode’ to normalise its ultra-easy monetary policy due to an expected slowdown in inflationary pressures”.

There were also gains in Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Mumbai, Manila and Wellington.

London, Paris and Frankfurt were also stronger in the morning.

The tepid performance came despite another strong performance on Wall Street, where all three main indexes climbed more than one per cent on bets the Fed has come to the end, or is close to, its hiking programme.

After Wednesday’s rate pause, bank officials indicated they would use data to decide on whether or not to resume lifting, but analysts said investors thought that unlikely.

A report showing more US jobless claims than expected last week added to those expectations.

The prospect of an extended pause weighed on the dollar Thursday and it was unable to recover with any force against the pound and euro.

The euro was lifted after the European Central Bank (ECB) lifted rates and warned of persistent inflation that will remain “too high for too long”.

ECB chief Christine Lagarde said after the decision that officials planned to increase more.

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