Asian markets ease as US inflation comes into view

Agence France-Presse
Asian markets ease as US inflation comes into view
A pedestrian walks past an electronic quotation board displaying share prices of the Nikkei 225 Index (R, top) and other Asian stock markets in Tokyo on February 26, 2020.
AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi

HONG KONG, China — Asian markets dipped Monday as investors look ahead to the release this week of key US inflation data that could provide a guide for the Federal Reserve's plans for interest rates going into the new year.

With Wall Street seeing little action at the back of last week owing to the Thanksgiving break, traders had few catalysts to drive action, though analysts were upbeat about the end of the year.

The retreat in equities comes after a recent run-up across world markets fuelled by bets the US central bank has finished lifting interest rates as inflation comes down and the jobs market comes off the boil.

The main focus this week is the release Thursday of the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Fed's preferred gauge of inflation.

"These numbers will be closely scrutinised for insights into inflation trends and their potential implications for monetary policy decisions," said SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes.

"While the current backdrop does not signify 'mission accomplished' in terms of addressing inflation, policymakers must now focus on planning for the next phase of the economic battle."

After a tepid half-day of business Friday in New York, Asia drifted lower.

Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, Singapore, Taipei and Wellington were all in the red.

Still, observers were upbeat about the outlook, with the latest weakness blamed on traders taking a breather after a strong month.

Tony Sycamore, at IG Group, said early December could see some selling as investors "rebuild energy and to set up for the end of year fireworks".

Others said a drop in Wall Street's VIX "fear gauge" -- a measure of equity volatility -- to its lowest since January 2020 suggested investors were getting their mojo back.

Eyes are also on developments at OPEC after the group and its allies delayed a meeting aimed at agreeing production quotas, with some African countries said to be baulking at Saudi Arabian calls for more cuts.

The group is thought to be close to reaching an agreement that could see the Saudis and Russia extend output reductions into the new year.

Crude prices have fallen in recent weeks as demand is seen coming down owing to slowing economies, particularly China's, and the Middle East crisis appears to be contained.

Key figures around 0230 GMT 

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 33,479.71 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.9 percent at 17,404.45

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,019.35

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 149.26 from 149.56 yen on Thursday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0941 from $1.0922

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2594 from $1.2585

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.88pence from 86.79 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.5 percent at $75.17 per barrel 

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.5 percent at $80.12 per barrel 

New York - DOW: UP 0.3 percent at 35,390.15 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,488.20 (close)

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