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Markets mixed as traders eye US inflation data

HONG KONG (AFP) – Equity markets were mixed yesterday ahead of key United States (US) inflation data later in the week, with traders still concerned the Federal Reserve could lift interest rates again.

Decision-makers at the central bank lined up last week to warn that more tightening could be needed to bring prices under control, tempering optimism that the hiking cycle had come to an end.

That sparked a sell-off in Asia on Friday, though a tech-led surge on Wall Street provided traders some support yesterday.

But with focus firmly on the consumer price index and retail sales later in the week, gains were limited.

“The forthcoming consumer price index report holds the potential to reintroduce the possibility of a rate hike,” said Stephen Innes at SPI Asset Management.

“Presently, the market has largely discounted the likelihood of another increase. While it was previously suggested that an aberrant inflation overshoot would be necessary to make the upcoming policy gathering next month uncertain, this week’s data… may indicate that the risks are still leaning towards a sustained higher inflation plateau.”

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok and Jakarta were up but Seoul, Sydney, Mumbai, Manila and Wellington retreated.

People walk past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index. PHOTO: AP

London, Frankfurt and Paris rose at the open.

Fears that global rates could remain elevated for an extended period were fanned by European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, who on Friday forecast a resurgence of inflation.

She also said officials would not start cutting rates for at least “the next couple of quarters”.

Expectations that US borrowing costs will not come down anytime soon boosted the dollar, with traders keeping an eye on its movement against the yen after Japanese authorities warned they could intervene to support their currency.

However, Sonal Desai at Franklin Templeton said the Bank of Japan (BoJ) would likely shift from its ultra-loose monetary policy, giving the yen a much-needed lift.

“We are going to see a change in policy in Japan and that is going to make the yen attractive,” she told Bloomberg Television.

“The BoJ will ultimately be pushed towards changing its own interest rate stance which will bring money back.”

Investors will also be watching a planned meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in San Francisco later in the week amid signs tensions were easing between the economic superpowers.

Chinese officials said the two will discuss “global peace and development”.

Helen Zhu, of Nan Fung Trinity, told Bloomberg TV: “We are not expecting a love fest or any kind of fantastic outcome or permanent solution but there could be a graceful period of time going into the US election next year.”