Asian markets track post-Fed surge on Wall St, but caution urged

New York indexes were sent soaring in response to Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell comments that traders hoped signalled an end to major rate hikes – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP Drew Angerer

Asian markets rose Thursday following a surge on Wall Street fuelled by hopes that the Federal Reserve could slow its pace of inflation-fighting interest rate hikes.

The dollar also struggled to bounce back from a sell-off — sitting at a three-week low against the yen — that came in response to comments by bank chief Jerome Powell suggesting its next super-sized increase could be its last.

However, analysts cautioned that the initial joy, which sent New York’s three main indexes soaring, could be short-lived as the global economy continued to face several headwinds and inflation would not likely come down quickly.

As expected, the Fed lifted borrowing costs 75 basis points to a range of 2.25-2.5 percent, close to the neutral level it considers neither stimulating nor slowing economic growth.

Forecasts have rates going as high as 3.8 percent in 2023 as the bank tries to control runaway inflation.

There is a growing concern that the sharp rise in rates is bearing down on the world’s top economy and could send it into recession.

But in his post-meeting comments, Powell said he did not consider that was the case, because “there are too many areas of the economy that are performing too well”. He did, however, note growth was slowing.

He added that officials would not give any guidance on their next move, instead taking each decision on a meeting-to-meeting basis. 

And while he said another “unusually large increase could be appropriate” in September, markets took heart from the suggestion that the bank was ready to take its foot off the gas towards the end of the year.

On Wall Street, the Dow and S&P rallied and the Nasdaq soared more than four percent — its best one-day rise since late 2020 — as tech firms caught a wave of optimism. The sector is more susceptible to higher rates.

And Asia followed suit, though with more muted gains.

Hong Kong was up after bouncing from initial losses as the city’s de facto central bank followed the Fed in lifting rates owing to its currency peg.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Manila, Jakarta and Wellington were also well in the green.

The prospect of a slower pace of rate hikes weighed on the dollar against most other currencies, and on Thursday hit its lowest level against the yen since July 6.

However, there was a warning that the positive mood likely will not last.

“This market move is the victory of hope over experience,” Jeffrey Rosenberg, at BlackRock Inc, told Bloomberg Television. “I’d be a little bit cautious here.”

And Citigroup’s Andrew Hollenhorst and Veronica Clark added that traders appeared to be misjudging Powell’s remarks.

“We read Chair Powell’s press conference as more hawkish than the market’s interpretation,” they said, adding that inflation readings excluding food and energy will “push the Fed to hike more aggressively than they or markets anticipate”.

All eyes are now on the release of second-quarter growth data later Thursday. After a 1.6 percent contraction in the previous three months, another negative reading would put the economy into a technical recession.

An expected phone call between Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping will also be high on the agenda for investors as the world’s superpowers try to navigate a period of rising tensions. Anything on US tariffs and Taiwan will be among the main areas of focus.

– Key figures at around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 27,804.21 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.4 percent at 20,75001

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.7 percent at 3,299.89

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0198 from $1.0201 late Wednesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2157 from $1.2151 

Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.39 pence from 83.85 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 135.52 yen from 136.51 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.6 percent at $98.80 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.2 percent at $108.00 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 1.4 percent at 32,197.59 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,348.23 (close) 

Asian markets track post-Fed surge on Wall St, but caution urged
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