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Asian markets mixed as traders fret over looming rate hikes

Published : Wednesday, 1 March, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 218

HONG KONG, Feb 28: Asian markets were mixed Tuesday after suffering a series of losses over concerns the Federal Reserve will push interest rates higher than expected and for longer than feared as it battles stubborn inflation.

Early gains in some bourses were erased as traders struggled to track advances on Wall Street while keeping a wary eye on several data releases this week that will provide a fresh snapshot of the US economy.

Recent figures showing a robust jobs market and inflation not coming down as quickly as hoped have spooked traders this month as they bet on more Fed rate hikes, wiping out most of January's equities rally.

"It's becoming increasingly clear to the market that the Federal Reserve is not yet finished with rate hikes," Seema Shah, at Principal Asset Management, said.

"Relentless monetary tightening will eventually weigh on both the economy and earnings -- a headwind that will, inevitably, renew and extend the equity market drawdown."

Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore and Wellington were all in the green but Manila, Jakarta, Mumbai and Bangkok slipped.
Hong Kong was also down despite news that the government will drop a long-running mask requirement from Wednesday, removing the last of the Covid rules that have dealt a severe blow to the city's economy.

London, Paris and Frankfurt fell at the open.

Still, some commentators said that with more Fed hikes now priced into valuations, equities could see a period of gains.

"Investors are debating whether January's inflation reflation was just another temporary bump in the road as the economy adjusts to a post-pandemic world," SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes said.

"Indeed one look at Brent oil prices struggling to hold on to the $82 handle doesn't precisely reignite worrisome inflationary fires."
On currency markets, the pound held on to most of Monday's gains that came on the back of an agreement between Britain and the European Union on an overhaul of trade rules in Northern Ireland.

Crude prices picked up after losses sparked by concerns over the impact on demand from the Fed's rate hike campaign
Still, Edward Moya at OANDA said prices had been initially helped by "the halting of a Russian pipeline to Poland, but that was unable to help shake off demand worries".

"Oil seems like it will stay heavy as both tensions between the (United States and China) and recession worries grow."    �AFP

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