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Asian stocks slip as rate-cut bets ease; Inflation data deluge on tap

Published 01/07/2024, 09:23 PM

Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks fell on Monday after a surprise jump in U.S. nonfarm payrolls saw markets rethink expectations for early interest rate cuts, with focus now turning to a string of key inflation readings this week.

Regional stocks took a weak lead-in from Wall Street after higher-than-expected nonfarm payrolls data for December spurred further trimming in bets that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates by as soon as March 2024. Anticipation of the fourth-quarter earnings season also kept traders on edge.

U.S. stock futures were largely flat in Asian trade on Monday.

Regional trading volumes were somewhat dulled by a market holiday in Japan, with futures for the Nikkei 225 Futures moving little. Focus was now on Tokyo inflation readings for December, due on Tuesday.

A devastating earthquake in central Japan also rattled sentiment towards Japanese markets, with spending and rebuilding efforts in the wake of the damage expected to further delay the Bank of Japan’s plans to begin tightening its ultra-doivsh policy.

Broader Asian indexes kept to a tight range. Australia’s ASX 200 fell slightly before inflation, trade and retail sales readings due later this week.

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and SSEC indexes fell 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively, extending their new year’s losses as sentiment towards the country remained weak. Inflation and trade data due later this week is expected to reflect continued weakness in the Chinese economy, following dismal purchasing managers index readings for December.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slid 1.1%, with mainland stocks acting as a major drag.

South Korea’s KOSPI was flat before a Bank of Korea interest rate decision later this week. Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a muted open, with inflation readings from the South Asian economy also on tap later this week.

Focus in India was also on earnings from index heavyweights Infosys Ltd (NS:INFY) and Wipro Ltd (NS:WIPR), due later this week.

Asian markets had fallen in their first week of trading in 2024, amid growing doubts that the Fed will trim interest rates by as soon as March.

Broader sentiment towards risk-driven assets was also held back by persistent concerns over the conflict in the Middle East, as the Israel-Hamas war showed little signs of de-escalation.

Markets face inflation test this week

In addition to inflation reports from several major Asian economies, focus this week is also on U.S. consumer price index data for December, due on Thursday.

The reading is expected to show a slight pick-up in U.S. inflation, with the CPI index set to remain well above the Fed’s 2% annual target. Month-on-month inflation is also expected to accelerate.

The inflation reading also comes just a week after nonfarm payrolls data pointed to little cooling in the labor market- which analysts at ING said gave the Fed less impetus to begin aggressively loosening policy, and that they expected any rate cuts to begin only by May.

The CME Fedwatch tool showed traders pricing in a nearly 63% chance of a 25 basis point rate cut in March, down from the 73.4% chance seen a week earlier.

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