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Asian stocks slip, kiwi drops on inflation outlook: markets wrap

Asian stocks slip, kiwi drops on inflation outlook: markets wrap
Stock price information displayed in the lobby of the Euronext NV stock exchange in Paris, France, on Wednesday, 14 December 2022. (Photo: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg)

Stocks in Asia were mostly lower as a rally in China cooled and focus shifted to a slew of growth and inflation data this week. The New Zealand dollar fell after the nation’s central bank said inflation expectations have declined. 

The currency slipped 0.9% after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand said the risks to the inflation outlook have become more balanced, citing how most measures of price expectations have fallen. It held policy rates as expected by economists. 

Shares in Hong Kong fell, with expectations on the city’s budget spurring notable moves in some sectors. Chinese equities fluctuated as a recent rally took gauges to resistance levels, with traders looking to this week’s manufacturing report and a key political meeting in Beijing next week for momentum. 

“Mixed and hesitant are good words to describe markets today,” said Matt Simpson, a senior market strategist at City Index. Key benchmarks are lacking in direction and traders are “hesitant to over-commit ahead of the US GDP and inflation data, and that is likely to remain the case until Wall Street awakens from its lull,” he said.  

Distressed Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings slumped after receiving a winding-up petition in Hong Kong.  

Equity benchmarks slipped in Japan and Australia while those in South Korea climbed. Futures in the US were little changed even after consumer confidence fell for the first time in four months.

Investors in the US are now contending with an erosion in expectations for how much the Federal Reserve will lower rates and an onslaught of new corporate issuance that has given yield-seeking investors ample alternatives. Traders no longer expect the Fed to cut rates by more than 75 basis points in 2024, bringing their view in line with what legislators have indicated as the likeliest outcome.

Traders refrained from making big bets ahead of the upcoming US GDP and inflation data and a parade of central bank speakers. Treasuries steadied in Asia after a $42 billion auction of seven-year notes and a heavy slate of new corporate debt. Wall Street saw another busy session of bond sales as issuers looked to borrow before key economic data later this week.

The global economy has a growing chance of pulling off a soft landing, finance chiefs said in a draft of the G20’s closing statement at this week’s meeting in Brazil, citing faster-than-expected disinflation as one of the upside risks. 

Fed governor Michelle Bowman repeated her expectation that inflation will continue to decline further with interest rates held at their current level — but said it’s too soon to begin rate cuts — joining a raft of officials stressing they’re in no rush to lower borrowing costs. 

In the corporate world, WuXi AppTec has become the most-sold Chinese stock this year on fears of US sanctions. Shares of Chinese gaming company NetEase Inc. jumped in Hong Kong after its title was included in the latest list of approvals by Beijing.  

In Japan, KFC Holdings surged to the highest since Oct. 1991 after a report that Mitsubishi Corp. may sell its entire stake in the company. 

Elsewhere, oil declined after a two-day gain as traders assessed a report showing higher US stockpiles and the odds that OPEC+ will extend supply cuts.

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