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Asian equities mixed as traders eye rate decisions: markets wrap

Asian equities mixed as traders eye rate decisions: markets wrap
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Asian stocks were mixed while US and European equity futures inched higher on Monday as investors awaited interest rate decisions this week from the US, Europe, China and Japan. A gauge of dollar strength edged up and Treasury yields were marginally higher.

Japan’s Topix index added 0.7% while Hong Kong’s benchmark slipped 0.6% and markets in Australia were closed for a holiday. Futures for Euro Stoxx 50 climbed 0.4% and contracts for the S&P 500 added 0.1% after the underlying index crept further into bull-market territory on Friday.

Concerns over growth in China remain while in the US technology shares have continued to climb amid bets the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its hiking cycle. 

Positioning in rates markets suggests one more Fed hike, with the likelihood that the move comes next month rather than this Wednesday. Bloomberg Economics is among a minority of forecasters that see the People’s Bank of China cutting its medium-term lending facility on Thursday. 

Unexpected hikes last week from the Bank of Canada and the Reserve Bank of Australia have added an extra element of uncertainty to markets. The European Central Bank is projected to lift its benchmark rate Thursday and the Bank of Japan is expected to stand pat on Friday. 

While the consensus is for the Fed to pause this week, there is also concern that its 10 hikes in the current cycle have done damage, and this has bond managers including Fidelity International to Allianz Global Investors forecasting an economic downturn.

“The main focus this coming week will be on the US core CPI and thereafter the FOMC, where our economics team expects a ‘hawkish pause’ from the Fed,” Nomura Holdings Inc. analysts including Chetan Seth wrote in a note. With the market mostly pricing in a hike by July, they don’t see a negative impact for stocks beyond “any initial knee-jerk negative reaction”.

In currency markets on Monday, an index of the dollar rose 0.1%. The yen and the offshore yuan slipped about 0.2% versus the greenback. 

Treasury yields rose two basis points for the two-year maturity and one basis point for the 10-year benchmark. 

Oil held losses amid persistent concerns around the demand outlook as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its price forecast again. Brent futures traded below $75 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate was below $70. Gold fell. DM


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