Monday, 17th January, 2022
Monday, 17th January, 2022

Asian markets mixed after Wall St gains as inflation fears ease

Asian markets were mixed Thursday as
traders fought to maintain the previous day’s upward momentum, though data
suggesting that US inflation may be stabilizing provided some fresh cheer.

The Labor Department said prices rose seven percent on year in December,
the fastest rate since 1982, as supply snarls and energy costs, were
compounded by surging demand from Americans returning to normal life.

However, the reading was in line with expectations and analysts pointed
out that the increase from the previous month had slowed and was below
forecasts, indicating that the rally may have peaked or was close to topping
out.

US investors welcomed the news, with all three main indexes extending
Tuesday’s gains that were fanned by Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell
pledging to rein in prices but do his utmost to nurture the economic
recovery.

Markets had endured a torrid start to the year, particularly after Fed
minutes last week showed a much more hawkish tilt by policymakers than many
feared could see the bank remove financial support too quickly.

But Powell’s remarks and the latest data have soothed nerves considerably
this week.

Still, there remains much debate on how many times the bank will hike
interest rates and when it will begin to cut back on the vast bond holdings
it has and which have helped keep borrowing costs in check.

Jack Janasiewicz, at Natixis Investment Managers Solutions, wrote: “March
has all but made a rate by the Fed a foregone conclusion. June is not far
behind either.

“But combine this with base effects (comparing with last year’s high
readings), Covid-related improvements in supply chains and labor markets,
the Fed’s tough talk on inflation, balance sheet management, and some modest
fiscal tightening and we very well could see inflation prints beginning to
soften to a pace that some are not expecting.”

He added: “There’s a lot of hawkishness baked in at current levels. Maybe
too much.”

After Wednesday’s rally, Asian equity markets fluctuated in early trade.

Hong Kong, Sydney, Taipei, and Manila rose, while Singapore and Wellington
were flat.

Tokyo ended the morning lower as a stronger yen weighed on exporters, with
Shanghai, Seoul, and Jakarta are slightly off.

But while the mood has improved on trading floors, there remain concerns
that markets will not have an easy ride this year as the Fed removes the
massive support that has helped drive a two-year markets rally and saw the
economy through the pandemic.

“Inflation is going to be with us no matter if they increase rates and the
challenges (to) the economy here is just going to build on that,” Shana
Sissel, of Strategic Wealth Partners, told Bloomberg Television.

“I am concerned that there is going to be quite a bit of volatility in the
market and our economy are going to slow down considerably.”

Oil prices edged down slightly but held Wednesday’s advances that came on
the back of data showing US stockpiles last week fell to their lowest level
since 2018, lifting hopes for demand in the world’s top economy.

Warren Patterson, of ING Groep NV, said: “Supply disruptions, uncertainty
over OPEC spare capacity and waning concerns over Omicron have all proved
bullish for prices. (The stockpile) numbers provided a further boost.”

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.9 percent at 28,517.94 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.4 percent at 24,507.80

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,590.36

Dollar/yen: UP at 114.65 yen from 114.53 yen late Wednesday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1444 from $1.1451

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3717 from $1.3713

Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.42 pence from 83.48 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $82.55 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $84.62 per barrel

New York – DOW: UP 0.1 percent at 36,290.32 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.8 percent at 7,551.72 (close)

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