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Nikkei Edges Up, While the Hang Seng, China Stocks Fall

Chinese blue chips fell 1.2%, having been shut on Monday, while the Hang Seng Index was down 1.04% and the yuan hit a seven-month low.

Asia stock markets
People pass by an electronic screen showing Japan's Nikkei share price index inside a conference hall in Tokyo. Photo: Reuters


Moves on Asian stock markets were mostly modest and downward on Tuesday, while investors await news on US inflation and the Federal Reserve’s latest policy decision.

The Nikkei enjoyed a 0.25% rise, although MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.5% in thin trade.

Chinese blue chips fell 1.2%, having been shut on Monday, while the Hang Seng Index dropped 1.04% and the yuan hit a seven-month low.


ALSO SEE: India’s Modi Retains Ministers in Key Cabinet Roles


The mood in Hong Kong was not helped by news that three senior foreign judges have quit the former colony’s top court amid complaints about a severe deterioration in the city’s political environment since the passing of a national security law in 2020.

Asian markets, meanwhile, have been cautiously gauging the fallout from the success of right-wing parties in the European Union and what it might mean for the cohesion of the bloc.


All eyes on US Fed Wednesday

The biggest scheduled economic developments of the week are due on Wednesday, with US consumer price inflation and the Federal Reserve rate decision.

The Fed is considered certain to hold steady at the conclusion of its two-day meeting on Wednesday, with the focus on whether it keeps three rate cuts in its “dot plot” projections for this year.

“We expect the dots to show two cuts in 2024, four cuts in 2025, three cuts in 2026 and a slight tick up in the longer-run or neutral rate,” said analysts at Goldman Sachs in a note.

“We think the leadership would prefer a two-cut baseline to retain flexibility, but a one-cut baseline is a possible risk, especially if core CPI surprises to the upside on Wednesday.”

The consumer price index (CPI) is forecast to rise a slim 0.1% in May, but with the core up 0.3%.

Rate futures imply 38 basis points of Fed easing for this year, compared to 50 bps before the jobs report.


BOJ may taper bond buying

The other central bank meeting this week is the Bank of Japan, which might decide to taper its bond buying at a policy meeting ending on Friday, as a step toward another rate hike.

There is much talk it will taper monthly bond buying by a trillion yen to 5 trillion, as a step toward a hike of 10 basis points in July.

Assuming markets aren’t disappointed by the size of the change, this could support the embattled yen. The dollar was up 0.2% at 157.38 yen, its highest in a week.

Beijing also set the yuan at a seven-month low to reflect gains for the US dollar as investors trim wagers on Federal Reserve rate cuts.

A survey revealed that business confidence has slipped Down Under, which may have been a factor in the ASX falling by 1.3% on Tuesday.

In India, the Nifty 50 edged up by 0.02%, buoyed perhaps by Modi managing to retain his top four ministers in their previous portfolios – finance, home affairs, defence and foreign affairs, plus commerce and agriculture.

Elsewhere, markets gave a muted reaction to Apple’s long-awaited AI strategy, which integrates “Apple Intelligence” technology across a suite of apps. The iPhone maker’s shares were down 0.3% in after hours trade.


Euro steady, French bonds under pressure

European assets found some footing on Tuesday, a day after the announcement of a snap election in France had driven them lower.

Europe’s STOXX 600 index was flat with France’s CAC40 up 0.3%, having tumbled 1.35% on Monday.

The euro was steady at $1.0767 after shedding 0.33% the day before, but French government bonds remained under pressure, and its 10-year yield rose 2 basis points to 3.26% having jumped 8 bps on Monday.

With Germany’s 10-year yield steady at 2.67%, the spread between the two, a gauge of the premium investors require to hold French debt rather than the euro zone benchmark, widened to 58.6 basis points, its most since January.

The far-right National Rally was forecast on Monday to win a snap election in France but fall short of an absolute majority in the first opinion poll published after President Emmanuel Macron’s shock decision to dissolve parliament.

“Snap elections in France was a surprise and raises concern over the reform process when the deficit picture in France is already weak,” Mohit Kumar, chief Europe economist at Jefferies, said in a note.

“However, we do not think that political uncertainty opens the door for instability in the Euro area or a break-up of the Euro area. Hence, we would not translate a short France view into a short Italy or Spain view.”

Across the channel, investors were digesting data showing Britain’s labour market showed more signs of cooling in April as the unemployment rate rose.

While this is unwelcome news for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a July 4 election, it could enable the Bank of England to cut interest rates in August. Next week’s inflation data will offer a better guide however.

Investors in British mid caps welcomed the news with the sector share index up 0.3%. The pound was down a fraction against the dollar at $1.2723, though the 10-year gilt yield fell 2 basis points to 4.30%.

Gold was just above one-month lows at $2,306 an ounce, after getting whiplashed by the pullback in market pricing for US rate cuts.

Oil prices consolidated Monday’s 3% rally, as investors awaited monthly oil supply and demand data from the US Energy Information Administration and OPEC on Tuesday, and the International Energy Agency on Wednesday.

Brent futures were steady at $81.62 a barrel.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard



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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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