Most Asian markets rise with earnings, US data in view

Agence France-Presse
Most Asian markets rise with earnings, US data in view
Pedestrians pass an electronic board showing the numbers for the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong on December 5, 2022.

HONG KONG, China — Asian markets mostly rose Tuesday, with hopes for earnings this week from tech titans helping to offset worries about the Federal Reserve's interest rate plans ahead of the release of key US growth and inflation data.

The apparent easing of Iran-Israel tensions after the rivals launched missile attacks against each other continued to weigh on oil prices, while the yen inched slightly higher as Japan again warned authorities had the room to intervene to support the currency.

Investors are a little more upbeat this week after last week's struggles fuelled by dimming hopes for US interest rate cuts and concerns the Middle East crisis could escalate to a regional war.

Focus is now on the corporate reports from Wall Street titans including Amazon, Apple, Netflix and General Motors, with observers saying that traders are keen to see strong earnings as well as positive outlooks.

However, there is a worry that equities could take a hit if the results disappoint, with the surge in markets in recent months partly helped by bets on firms providing bumper returns, even as Fed rate cut hopes fade.

Still, all three main indexes in New York chalked up much-needed gains, while London ended at a record high as the Bank of England is seen cutting interest rates soon thanks to cooling inflation.

And most of Asia followed suit, extending their advances on Monday.

Hong Kong piled on more than one percent, while Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta were also enjoying buying action. Shanghai and Wellington struggled.

Key data out of Washington this week will provide a fresh idea about the central bank's plans, with updates on US gross domestic product and monetary policymakers' preferred gauge of inflation the standouts.

The personal consumption expenditures index, which is due Friday, comes after three months of above-forecast readings on consumer prices that have seen investors lowering their outlook for rate cuts this year.

They now see two at best, compared with six predicted at the start of 2024.

Decision-makers have also moved to push back against market expectations for how many reductions were in the pipeline.

"The debate surrounding the Federal Reserve's stance on rate cuts persists, especially after Chair Jerome Powell and other policymakers adopted a more hawkish tone last week in response to persistent inflationary pressures," said SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes.

"These releases will be crucial in determining whether the Fed maintains its current policy stance, keeping rates higher for longer."

Oil prices edged up slightly, having retreated Monday on relief that Tehran had not retaliated to an Israeli strike at the end of last week that fanned worries of a potentially catastrophic escalation of the Middle East crisis.

The commodity is still up about 14 percent this year owing to output cuts by OPEC and other key producers as well as ongoing concerns about the impact of Russia's war in Ukraine.

"Crude has unwound the Israel-Iran risk premium but could slip into a holding pattern," said Vandana Hari at Vanda Insights.

"It's hard to see a correction from current levels unless there's a breakthrough on the Gaza front."

The yen ticked higher after Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki again warned against the sharp moves in currency markets, which have often been blamed on speculation.

"I think it's fair to assume that the environment for taking appropriate action on forex is in place, though I won't say what the action is," he said.

The Bank of Japan's policy decision will be pored over for an idea about its plans for rates after hiking last month for the first time in 17 years.

Key figures around 0250 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 37,538.06 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.5 percent at 16,758.34

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,027.07

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 154.70 yen from 154.84 yen on Monday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0660 from $1.0656

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2356 from $1.2354

Euro/pound: UP at 86.27 pence from 86.24 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percent at $82.15 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.3 percent at $87.24 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 38,239.98 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.6 percent at 8,023.87 (close)

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