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Most Asian markets down as traders eye key Powell speech

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The speech by Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell at Jackson Hole this week will be closely followed by traders./AFP
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Aug 22, 2022 - 04:22 AM

HONG KONG, CHINA — Asian markets were broadly lower Monday as the rally from June’s lows runs out of steam owing to renewed concerns about Federal Reserve plans to ramp up interest rates to combat runaway inflation.

All eyes are on a symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where Fed boss Jerome Powell will deliver a speech that will be followed for an idea about the bank’s next moves.

A dip in price rises and signs of economic slowdown had raised hopes policymakers would ease up — and possibly cut next year — after two successive, 75-basis-point hikes, helping equities rally globally.

But that optimism has slowly been eroded in recent weeks as Fed officials, including Powell, have warned that the battle against inflation was far from won, particularly as the jobs market remained resilient.

One of the latest was Richmond Fed boss Thomas Barkin, who reasserted his commitment to bringing inflation back to two percent from the four-decade high of around nine percent.

He said on Friday the policy board would “do what it takes to get there”, but warned: “There’s a path to getting inflation under control but a recession could happen in the process.”

Jonathan Millar of Barclays said it was unlikely Powell would signal a slowdown in rate hikes this week.

“It does seem like what we’ve heard from Powell so far suggests there’s quite a high bar for them to transition from aggressive hikes” to 25 basis points.

“One thing they definitely want to communicate is that they remain very much focused on issues with price stability and that they will react very cautiously to any signs of improvements in the inflation data.”

And National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril added that the Fed chief will likely say that “while we may be close to the end of the beginning of the current tightening cycle, we are still a long way from the end”.

All three main indexes on Wall Street fell Friday and Asia followed suit in early trade.

Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta dropped.

However, Shanghai rose after China’s central bank cut prime loan rates as it tries to bolster the world’s second-biggest economy, which has been ravaged by lockdowns across the country as part of leaders’ zero-Covid strategy.

Singapore and Wellington also edged up.

The prospect of more US hikes to come has given another boost to the dollar, which rallied against the yen and is approaching the 140 yen mark for the first time in 24 years.

The stronger greenback was helping to keep oil prices down, while downward pressure was being enhanced by speculation rising about a possible Iran nuclear deal that could ease a supply crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The global balance for the remainder of the year is not as tight as many were expecting, with Russian supply holding up well,” said Warren Patterson, of ING Groep NV.

“While it may take several months for Iran to get production back to pre-sanction levels in the event of a deal, in the short term, they should still be able to boost exports by relying on storage.”

Key figures at around 0230 GMT 

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,805.52 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.1 percent at 19,755.48

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,270.83

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0032 from $1.0034 Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.1822 from $1.1827

Euro/pound: UP at 84.86 pence from 84.81 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 137.30 yen from 136.93 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.2 percent at $89.69 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.1 percent at $95.68 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.9 percent at 33,706.74 points (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,550.37 (close)

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