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Asian stocks slide on inflation jitters; BOJ, Fed meetings on tap

Published 03/14/2024, 11:08 PM
© Reuters.

Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks fell sharply on Friday as hotter-than-expected U.S. inflation readings spurred more concerns over higher-for-longer interest rates, with a barrage of upcoming central bank meetings coming squarely into focus.

Regional markets took a weak lead-in from Wall Street as producer price index inflation rose more than expected in February. The reading, which came on the heels of a strong consumer inflation print earlier this week, saw traders reduce their expectations for a rate cut in June. 

Wall Street futures fell slightly in Asian trade, as markets grew fearful of any more hawkish signals from a Federal Reserve meeting next week. 

Japanese stocks under pressure as BOJ meeting looms 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3% on Friday and was set for a 2.3% weekly decline, as investors continued to lock-in profits from record highs hit last week. The TOPIX rose 0.6%, but was set to lose nearly 2% this week. 

Focus was now squarely on a Bank of Japan meeting next week, where the central bank is widely expected to signal, or even enact an end to its negative interest rates and yield curve control policies.

Bets on a BOJ pivot were spurred chiefly by signs of sticky Japanese inflation, while the results of countrywide wage negotiations pointed to substantial increases in wages this year- a trend that is also expected to underpin inflation.

Australian stocks sink, RBA seen maintaining hawkish course

Australia’s ASX 200 slid 1% amid heavy profit-taking after hitting a record high earlier in the week.

Profit-takers swept in ahead of a Reserve Bank of Australia meeting next week, where the central bank is widely expected to maintain its hawkish course as inflation remained above its 2% annual target.

Analysts at ANZ said they expected the RBA to only turn neutral on policy by May, and that the bank is likely to maintain a “mild tightening bias” next week.

Tech losses, China jitters weigh

Broader Asian markets also retreated, weighed by a mix of losses in technology stocks and as weak data from China continued to trickle in.

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes fell 0.7% and 0.3%, respectively, coming further off four-month highs as weak house prices data for February showed little relief for the country’s beleaguered property sector.

Losses in mainland stocks and heavyweight tech dragged Hong Kong’s Hang Seng down 2%. WuXi Biologics (HK:2269) and WuXi AppTec (HK:2359) were the top decliners on the index, amid persistent concerns over U.S. sanctions against Chinese biotechnology firms.

Losses in tech pulled South Korea’s KOSPI down 1.4%. Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a mildly positive open, after the index was slammed by a heavy dose of profit-taking earlier this week.  

Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) supplier Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (TW:2317), was a key outlier among Asian tech stocks on Friday. The contract electronics maker clocked a 33% spike in its fourth quarter profit, and said it expected to benefit greatly from increased demand for server technology from the artificial intelligence industry. 

Foxconn’s shares rallied as much as 9% to an over five-year high. 

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