Asian markets mostly down ahead of Fed, US inflation data

Agence France-Presse
asian stocks
People stand in front of an electronic display showing the Hang Seng Index in the Central district of Hong Kong on July 26, 2021, after stocks plunged as tuition firms were hammered by China's decision to reform the private education sector by preventing them from making profits.

HONG KONG, China — Asian markets mostly fell Tuesday as traders awaited the Federal Reserve's policy decision and US inflation data, while the euro struggled to recover from a sell-off fuelled by political uncertainty in Europe.

After an upbeat run last week driven by signs of an easing in the labour market and economy, Friday's forecast-busting non-farm jobs report provided a dose of reality that interest rates might be kept elevated for some time.

Speculation has been swirling about how many, if any, cuts the Fed will introduce this year, with several officials warning that they are reluctant to move too soon for fear of restoking inflation, which remains stubbornly above target.

Focus is now on the conclusion Wednesday of the latest policy meeting and the release of May's consumer price index, which dipped in April after three successive above-forecast readings.

While decision-makers are expected to keep borrowing costs on hold, the main interest is their so-called "dot plot" forecast for rates over the coming months.

Traders started the year predicting as many as six cuts but they have whittled them down since then, and now the most optimistic estimate is for three, with some even eyeing zero.

"While April inflation came in softer-than-expected, paving the way for rate cuts once again after the initial pushback, we have argued that one month of data does not constitute a trend," said Saxo's Charu Chanana.

"This puts the May inflation print heavily under the radar, to confirm that disinflation is progressing and to give confidence to the Fed to cut rates this year."

All three main indexes on Wall Street pushed higher Monday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq chalking up records again.

But Asian investors were less assured Tuesday, after a tepid performance the day before in holiday-thinned trade.

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Sydney all sank on their return from an extended weekend break, while Singapore, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta were also down.

However, Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok and Mumbai all edged up.

Traders appeared unmoved by fresh calls by Chinese authorities to work to reduce the country's housing stockpiles as they struggle to support the massively indebted property sector.

Meanwhile, a Hong Kong court ordered the liquidation of Chinese developer Dexin on Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported, making it the latest firm to be hit with such an order.

The euro remained under pressure against its peers owing to growing political uncertainty after French President Emmanuel Macron called a snap parliamentary election in reaction to a strong showing by the country's far-right in EU elections.

The move followed a crushing blow for centrists in the poll, with the far-right in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Austria also performing well.

Stock markets in Paris and Frankfurt rose after dropping Monday, while London was also up.

Oil dipped after Monday's rally, which came as traders await the release of an OPEC report that will outline its forecasts for demand.

The gains followed a recent plunge in the commodity sparked by an announcement from OPEC and other producers that they will start reversing recent cuts.

The losses led officials at the grouping to reassure markets that it still would change its mind if circumstances dictated.

 Key figures around 0810 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 39,134.79 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.0 percent at 18,176.34 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,028.05 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 8,243.36

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0766 from $1.0767 on Monday

Euro/pound: UP at 84.65 pence from 84.54 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 157.34 yen from 157.04 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2718 from $1.2732

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $77.69 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $81.56 per barrel

New York - Dow Jones: UP 0.2 percent at 38,868.04 (cl

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