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Asia-Pacific markets mixed as investor sentiment remains fragile


SINGAPORE — Asia-Pacific markets were mixed in Thursday trading with multiple regional markets shedding earlier gains as buoyant sentiment from overnight moves on Wall Street following a Federal Reserve rate hike that equated to its most aggressive such move since 1994 faded.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.4% on the day to 26,431.20 while the Topix was up 0.64% to 1,867.81.

Shares of Fast Retailing were up 1.44% while robot maker Fanuc saw its stock climb 0.47%. Trade data released in the morning showed Japan ran a trade deficit after falls in the yen drove more imports.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 1.34% in afternoon trade as shares of Chinese tech stocks like Tencent and Netease declined more than 3% each.

In mainland China markets, the Shanghai Composite sat 0.68% lower while the Shenzhen Component hovered above the flatline.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.15% lower at 6,591.10.

Australia’s unemployment figures held steady at 3.9% in yet another signal that Australia’s Reserve Bank would, like the Fed and many other central banks, be staying on course to raise rates again. The unemployment rate has now been at 3.9% for three consecutive months but could fall to 3.5% at the end of the year, Capital Economics’ Ben Udy said.

In our view, the risks around a recession in 2023 can’t be ignored.

Kerry Craig

Global Market Strategist, J.P. Morgan Asset Management

Over in South Korea, the Kospi index gained 0.18%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.46%.

Futures contracts for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 also traded in negative territory during the afternoon of Asia trading hours on Thursday.

Thursday’s moves follow a tumble across markets earlier this week following initial news of a strong move by the Fed and concerns of more Covid-related restrictions in mainland China.

Fed rate hike

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average snapped a five-day losing streak, jumping 303.70 points, or 1%, to close at 30,668.53. The S&P 500 rose 1.46% to 3,789.99 while, the Nasdaq Composite gained 2.5% to end the day at 11,099.15.

The Fed said in a statement it was committed to bringing down inflation — currently at a high of 8.6 per cent — to 2%. It also said it would continue to reduce holdings of Treasury securities and agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities.

Kevin O’Leary, chairman of O’Shares ETFs, says the aggressive 75 basis point rate hike is a signal the Fed has the inflation “bull by its horns” now.

A 1% hike would be better but for now, all signs pointed to the Fed “lassoing” inflation, he added.

Crucially, while the Fed has not flagged another 75 basis point rate hike for the July meeting, it has confirmed its commitment to returning inflation back to the 2% target and this meant the Fed might be willing to sacrifice the economy to achieve this, J.P. Morgan Asset Management Global Market Strategist Kerry Craig says.

“In our view, the risks around a recession in 2023 can’t be ignored,” Craig said.

Clifford Bennett, chief economist at ACY Securities, said a recession was imminent now that the Fed has signaled its intention to rein in inflation and “ignored that this would cause further economic pain.”

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 105.074 — above an earlier low of 104.707.

The Japanese yen traded at 134.24 per dollar, still stronger as compared to earlier in the week when it was at levels above 135 against the greenback. The Australian dollar was at $0.6998, retreating from an earlier high of $0.7035.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.65% to $119.28 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also rose 0.79% to $116.08 per barrel.

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