Asian markets rose Monday after Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell said officials would take a careful approach regarding interest rate hikes, while Chinese shares soared after the government cut the duty on trades.
In a much-anticipated speech Friday, the US central bank boss left the door open to more tightening but repeated his pledge that decision-making would be data-dependent as policymakers try to bring inflation to heel.
Powell’s comments suggested borrowing costs would be held at a 22-year high of 5.25-5.5 percent next month, though investors remain concerned more could come before year’s end.
While inflation is coming down, markets have been hit in recent weeks by a strong run of economic data — particularly on jobs — that has been seen as putting pressure on the Fed to keep hiking.
“If the data continues to show an ease in labour market tightness and price pressures, then the Fed is likely done with its tightening cycle,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.
“If the data doesn’t play ball, then further tightening should be expected. Thus, upcoming key market data releases (inflation and labour market) are likely to set the tone for markets over coming months.”
The remarks sent US stocks lower initially before they bounced to end Friday on a positive note.
And Asia followed suit Monday, with Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei, Jakarta and Wellington all enjoying a strong start to the week.
Shanghai and Hong Kong soared at the open following China’s decision to slash the tax paid on stock trades for the first time since 2008 as authorities battle to support the world’s second-largest economy.
The Ministry of Finance and its State Taxation Administration said in a joint statement the move was designed to “invigorate the capital market and boost investor confidence”.
Officials also said they would slow the pace of new listings, which usually suck up market liquidity.
‘Positive signal’ from China
The measures provided some joy among traders and come as the country’s leaders struggle to kickstart the stuttering economy, with a series of pledges failing to lift optimism.
“The scale, force and speed of the measures all beat expectations,” said analysts at China International Capital Corp.
“The increasing force of the policy tools will lift market confidence, amplifying the positive signal for the market.”
However, Neo Wang, at Evercore ISI warned that stocks were unlikely to rally unless authorities announce a huge stimulus package similar to the so-called “bazooka” in 2008.
Investors are also keeping tabs on US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s talks with Chinese counterparts in the latest bid to ease trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
Hong Kong also saw the restart of trading in troubled Chinese property giant Evergrande after a 17-month suspension for not publishing its financial results.
The firm collapsed more than 80 percent in the morning, having finally released its earnings Sunday, showing losses of $4.53 billion in the first half of the year and just $556 million in cash assets.
Once China’s largest real estate firm, Evergrande defaulted in 2021 and is saddled with more than $300 billion in liabilities, becoming a symbol of a nationwide property crisis that many fear could spill over globally.
Its creditors will vote Monday on a proposal from the developer regarding its offshore debt that is shaping up to be one of China’s biggest restructurings ever.
Key figures around 0230 GMT
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.7 percent at 32,154.03 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 2.1 percent at 18,338.21
Shanghai – Composite: UP 2.5 percent at 3,139.05
Dollar/yen: UP at 146.50 yen from 146.44 yen on Friday
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0807 from $1.0797
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2601 from $1.2578
Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.76 pence from 85.82 pence
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $79.79 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $83.82 per barrel
New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 34,346.90 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,338.58 (close)