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Asian stocks skittish ahead of more US rate cues; Nikkei slides

Published 03/27/2024, 10:54 PM
© Reuters.
- Most Asian stocks moved in a flat-to-low range on Thursday, as sentiment remained strained ahead of key U.S. inflation data and addresses by Federal Reserve officials, while Japan’s Nikkei index fell sharply from recent gains.

Regional markets largely brushed off a strong lead-in from Wall Street, after hawkish comments from Fed Governor Christopher Waller put fears of higher-for-longer interest rates back in play. 

U.S. stock futures fell in Asian trade, with focus now turning to PCE price index data- the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge- and more addresses from Fed officials on Friday. 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 slides as stocks trade ex-dividend

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell more than 1% on Thursday, as did the TOPIX as several heavyweight stocks traded ex-dividend. 

Losses in index heavyweights including SoftBank Group (TYO:9984), SoftBank Corp (TYO:9434) and Tokyo Electron Ltd. (TYO:8035) weighed on Japanese indexes as they all traded ex-dividend. 

Japanese markets had risen sharply on Wednesday as a sharp drop in the yen- to 1990 lows- supported export-oriented stocks. But they reversed a bulk of recent gains on Thursday, with Japanese markets also facing increased resistance after a rally to record highs earlier in March. 

Australia’s ASX 200 hits record high on less hawkish RBA outlook 

Australia’s ASX 200 index was an outlier in Asia, rising as much as 1% to a record high of 7,901.20 points. 

The index was boosted by broad-based gains, while heavyweight mining and bank stocks also advanced.

Sentiment towards Australian markets was boosted by increasing signs of easing inflation in the country, which in turn presents a less hawkish outlook for the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Data on Thursday showed Australian retail sales grew a touch less than expected in February, although most of the growth was driven by one-off spending on Taylor Swift concerts. 

Thursday’s data also came after a softer-than-expected reading on consumer inflation earlier this week. 

Broader Asian stocks kept to a tight range, and were set for an underwhelming performance this week as sentiment remained on edge before more economic cues.

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes rose 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively, after clocking steep losses earlier this week on concerns over slowing economic growth and deteriorating trade ties with the U.S.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.4%, also recovering mildly from recent losses. 

South Korea’s KOSPI fell 0.1% as a rally in technology stocks cooled.

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a mildly negative open, although the index was likely to remain pinned above 22,000 points. 

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