Most markets fall after strong US data, eyes on inflation

AFP , Monday 11 Mar 2024

Stock markets mostly fell Monday after a forecast-busting jobs report dampened US interest rate cut hopes, with attention now turning to the release of key inflation data this week.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong stocks were a bright spot for Asia after Chinese inflation data beat forecasts. AFP


The selling followed a retreat in all three main indexes on Wall Street, while investors lowered their expectations for how many cuts the Federal Reserve would make this year.

However, analysts said that while the jobs figures were bigger than hoped, they would not likely cause policymakers to hold off lowering borrowing costs as unemployment ticked up to a two-year high.

The reading "didn't necessarily amount to an 'all-clear' signal for the Fed, but there also didn't appear to be anything in it that would derail its plan to cut rates", said Chris Larkin of E*Trade from Morgan Stanley.

SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes added that "the US labour market seems to be in a comfortable zone -- not too hot and not too cold".

"Reminiscent of Goldilocks's 'just right' porridge."

Traders are now factoring in three rate cuts this year, compared with six that were pencilled in three months ago.

The latest reading on the consumer price index on Tuesday is now in traders' view.

Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Wellington, Mumbai, Bangkok, Taipei and Manila were all in negative territory.

London, Frankfurt and Paris opened in the red.

Japanese equities were weighed by a tech sell-off after losses for the sector in New York, while exporters also took a hit from a stronger yen as reports said the country's central bank was considering shifting away from its ultra-loose monetary policy soon.

There was little reaction to news that the economy had narrowly avoided a recession in the final months of last year.

Hong Kong and Shanghai rose, however, following figures showing a bigger-than-forecast jump in Chinese consumer prices last month, while a report said regulators had called on large banks to provide more support for the nation's battered property sector.

The data provided some much-needed good news for the struggling economy, though observers warned it continued to face headwinds.

"Recovery in domestic demand will only be gradual, as households worry about their income and job prospects amid heightened economic uncertainty while consumer confidence remains low," said Kelvin Lam at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

"Therefore, it is too early to say China has emerged from consumer deflation from just one data point."

The country's leaders on Monday closed a key gathering vowing to do more to fix the battered housing market and reduce unemployment.

Officials have spoken at the of challenges facing the economy and admitted a five percent growth target will not be easy and pointed to "hidden risks".

Bitcoin hit a fresh record high above $71,000 as demand picks up and traders grow optimistic about the prospect of interest rates coming down this year. The unit peaked at $71,432 in the afternoon before easing back slightly.


Key figures around 0815 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 2.2 percent at 38,820.49 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.4 percent at 16,587.57 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.7 percent at 3,068.46 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,644.05

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 146.72 yen from 147.06 yen on Friday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0972 from $1.0942

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2843 from $1.2854

Euro/pound: UP at 85.18 pence from 85.09 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $77.90 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: FLAT at $82.08 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.2 percent at 38,722.69 (close)

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