Stocks in Asia fell as investors trimmed their positions to reduce risks ahead of the Federal Reserve’s rate decision with Chinese equity markets giving up Tuesday’s gains.
Hong Kong stocks declined, with technology shares falling over 1%. Equities were also lower in Japan and South Korea. Australian stocks advanced after quarterly inflation came in slower than expected.
While Chinese assets rallied following the Politburo meeting Monday, investors continue to wait for Beijing to deliver more tangible support for the economy amid concern that debt and demographics constraints will weigh on growth.
Imminent follow-through of actionable policy measures, especially those for the property sector, will be key to sustaining a China market rally, according to Morgan Stanley strategists.
Meanwhile, more explanation of planned property policies, particularly those affecting prices in first top-tier cities, will be crucial to restore confidence among investors, said Winnie Wu, China equity strategist at Bank of America, on Bloomberg Television. “That will be the key message to deliver to the home buyers because if property price goes down, it’s very hard to convince people to buy a depreciating asset.”
The S&P 500 closed Tuesday at its highest since April 2022, the Nasdaq 100 outperformed and the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its 12th straight advance — the longest winning run in over six years — as the Conference Board’s US consumer confidence index climbed to a two-year high. Big tech led equity gains, with traders counting on the earnings season to see whether the enthusiasm around artificial intelligence will justify this year’s market advance.
The Australian dollar declined as inflation data strengthened bets for the nation’s central bank to pause interest rate hikes again next week. The greenback inched up, while yields on the two-year Treasury, which are more sensitive to imminent Fed moves, were mostly unchanged.
In the approach to the Fed’s decision, strong consumer confidence data bolstered the soft-landing narrative for the US economy — while suggesting policymakers aren’t done with their inflation fight yet. Rates on swap contracts continued to price in a quarter percentage-point Fed hike later on Wednesday, with some additional increase factored in by year-end as well.
The front-end rates may decline significantly if Fed Chairman Jerome Powell even subtly acknowledges that inflation is now less of a problem, strategists at DBS Bank in Singapore, including Eugene Leow, wrote in a note. “If there are any hints that inflation is going in the right direction or that the inflation rate is near target, it could easily be interpreted dovish,” they said.
In late trading in the US, a $210 billion exchange-traded fund tracking the Nasdaq 100 (QQQ) climbed as Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. reported revenue that beat analysts’ expectations. Microsoft Corp. posted tepid sales growth, while Texas Instruments Inc. gave a lukewarm forecast.
There are so many bulls in the US stock market that any disappointment on the economy or earnings poses a risk to the rally, according to Citigroup Inc. strategists. Investor exposure to the S&P 500 remains extended and one-sided, even after bullish momentum has waned in recent weeks, a team including Chris Montagu said.
Given that Wall Street had set a low bar coming into the reporting season, roughly 80% of the companies have thus far beaten profit estimates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Meanwhile in commodities, oil fell Wednesday after recent gains amid tighter supplies and optimism that China’s government will boost the country’s economy. Gold was little changed.
Key events this week:
- US new home sales, Wednesday
- FOMC rate decision, Fed Chair Powell news conference, Wednesday
- China industrial profits, Thursday
- ECB rate decision, Thursday
- US GDP, durable goods orders, initial jobless claims, wholesale inventories, Thursday
- Japan Tokyo CPI, Friday
- BOJ rate decision, Friday
- Eurozone economic confidence, consumer confidence, Friday
- US consumer income, employment cost index, University of Michigan consumer sentiment, Friday
Some of the main moves in markets:
- S&P 500 futures were little changed as of 1:27 p.m. Tokyo time. The S&P 500 rose 0.3%
- Nasdaq 100 futures fell 0.1%. The Nasdaq 100 rose 0.7%
- Japan’s Topix was little changed
- Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.9%
- Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.8%
- The Shanghai Composite fell 0.3%
- Euro Stoxx 50 futures fell 0.3%
- The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed
- The euro was little changed at $1.1052
- The Japanese yen fell 0.1% to 141.05 per dollar
- The offshore yuan fell 0.3% to 7.1581 per dollar
- The Australian dollar fell 0.4% to $0.6765
- Bitcoin was little changed at $29 215.9
- Ether fell 0.3% to $1,856.46
- The yield on 10-year Treasuries was little changed at 3.89%
- Japan’s 10-year yield declined one basis point to 0.450%
- Australia’s 10-year yield declined four basis points to 3.99%
- West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.4% to $79.31 a barrel
- Spot gold was little changed
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