Asian markets mixed as traders eye US inflation report

Agence France-Presse
Pedestrians walk past an electronic quotation board displaying share prices of the Nikkei 225 Index (R, top) and other Asian markets in Tokyo on March 5, 2020.
Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

HONG KONG, China — Asian markets were mixed Monday ahead of key US inflation data later in the week, with traders still concerned the Federal Reserve could lift interest rates again.

Decision-makers at the central bank lined up last week to warn that more tightening could be needed to bring prices under control, tempering optimism that the hiking cycle had come to an end.

That sparked a sell-off in Asia on Friday, though a tech-led surge on Wall Street provided traders some support on Monday.

But with focus firmly on the consumer price index and retail sales later in the week, gains were limited.

"The forthcoming CPI report holds the potential to reintroduce the possibility of a rate hike," said Stephen Innes at SPI Asset Management.

"Presently, the market has largely discounted the likelihood of another increase.

"While it was previously suggested that an aberrant inflation overshoot would be necessary to make the upcoming policy gathering next month uncertain, this week's data... may indicate that the risks are still leaning towards a sustained higher inflation plateau."

In early trade, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei and Jakarta were up but Shanghai, Sydney, Manila and Wellington were in the red.

Fears that global rates could remain elevated for an extended period were fanned by European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, who on Friday forecast a resurgence of inflation.

She also said officials would not start cutting rates for at least "the next couple of quarters".

Expectations that US borrowing costs will not come down anytime soon boosted the dollar, with traders keeping an eye on its movement against the yen after Japanese authorities warned they could intervene to support their currency.

However, Sonal Desai at Franklin Templeton said the Bank of Japan would likely shift from its ultra-loose monetary policy, giving the yen a much-needed lift.

"We are going to see a change in policy in Japan and that is going to make the yen attractive," she told Bloomberg Television.

"The BoJ will ultimately be pushed towards changing its own interest rate stance which will bring money back."

Investors will also be watching a planned meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in San Francisco later in the week amid signs tensions were easing between the economic superpowers.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 32,750.41 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.1 percent at 17,215.38

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,029.99

Dollar/yen: UP at 151.63 yen from 151.47 yen on Friday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0684 from $1.0686

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2234 from $1.2224 

Euro/pound: DOWN at 87.33 pence from 87.39 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.8 percent at $76.58 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.8 percent at $80.82 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 1.2 percent at 34,283.10 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.3 percent at 7,360.55 (close)

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