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Asian markets mixed as easing Fed fears tempered by China Covid spike

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Asian markets drifted after a mixed week as China worries play against signs of a slowdown in the Federal Reserve rate hikes./AFP
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Nov 25, 2022 - 07:21 AM

HONG KONG, CHINA — Asian markets were mixed on Friday at the end of a week in which hopes that the Fed will tone down its monetary tightening campaign were offset by fresh Covid lockdown fears in China.

With Wall Street closed for the Thanksgiving break, trading was light with few catalysts to drive action on trading floors and investors looking ahead to the release of US jobs data next week.

The mood across markets picked up this month as a series of indicators suggested the US economy, the world’s largest, was showing signs of weakness after the Federal Reserve ramped up interest rates.

The standout reports were consumer and wholesale inflation, which came in much lower than forecast and provided the central bank with room to row back on its hawkishness.

And while a selection of Fed officials lined up to warn there was more tightening to come, there is an expectation that the days of bumper 75 basis-point increases are gone.

That has slightly eased worries that the sharp rise in borrowing costs could tip the US economy into recession, though many observers still see a contraction coming.

SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes said there was a “market consensus bias to believe that US headline inflation will continue to ease substantially over the next month or two and that the tail risks around (more than five percent interest rates) have dropped sharply”.

“After all, a step down to 50 basis points in December would be an unambiguous signal that peak hawkishness has passed.”

Asian equities struggled at end of the week, however, with Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta all down.

There were gains in Shanghai, Sydney, Wellington and Manila.

Regional sentiment was sapped by ongoing fears about the spike in Covid cases in China, which authorities are trying to contain with a series of targeted measures in big cities including Beijing and Shanghai, though they are short of full-on lockdowns.

Still, Innes said there appeared to be less concern about the government’s reaction as it looks to ease parts of its strict Covid-zero strategy.

“Stock and currency market investors are tentatively looking through the current lockdown regime while betting on the more optimistic interpretation that China is hitting the limits of ‘Covid-zero’ and the authorities’ efforts to loosen restrictions will continue,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jun Bei Liu, at Tribeca Investment Partners, was upbeat about the outlook for Chinese markets.

“In the next 12 months things will get better,” she told Bloomberg TV.

“We have seen this playbook before across other economies. We’ll begin to see outperformance very soon in the next few quarters.”

Key figures around 0710 GMT 

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,283.03 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.4 percent at 17,596.70

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,101.69 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0419 from $1.0411 on Thursday

Dollar/yen: UP at 138.53 yen from 138.39 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2113 from $1.2131

Euro/pound: UP at 86.02 pence from 85.82 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.7 percent at $78.45 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.4 percent at $85.65 per barrel

New York – Dow: Closed for a holiday

London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,466.60 points (close)

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