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Hong Kong — Asian shares advanced on Wednesday with tech stocks particularly catching a lift after a strong session on Wall Street, while US treasury yields held near multiyear highs ahead of closely watched inflation data this week.
Investors across asset classes are devoting considerable thought to the pace and timing of interest rate hikes by central banks across the world.
Barring any big surprises, the consumer price index (CPI) should cement the expectation the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in March, with a strong print offering further support to those tipping a larger 50 basis point rise.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 1% to its highest in two weeks, helped by a 3% gain in Hong Kong-listed tech stocks.
Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.9%.
All three main Wall Street indices closed higher with tech stocks including Apple and Microsoft jumping, as did bank stocks supported by the prospect of higher US interest rates.
Nonetheless, the Nasdaq Composite is still down 9.2% this year after a brutal January.
Manishi Raychaudhuri, Asia-Pacific equity strategist at BNP Paribas, said market volatility was lingering as investors tried to figure out how often, how far and how fast central banks would raise interest rates.
“The overarching theme for the market is central banks’ monetary policies,” he said. “I think volatilities will continue and will possibly increase ... but over the longer term corporate balance sheets, particularly in Asian emerging markets look a lot better than they were earlier,” he said.
Elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, gains in tech names helped Korea’s Kopsi rise 0.8% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country’s largest bank gained 5% after announcing a A$2bn share buyback.
Gains in Hong Kong financials and tech stocks meant the local benchmark rose 2%, unfazed by tighter restrictions to combat a new wave of Covid-19.
E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.23%.
However, focus on US inflation figures due Thursday is likely to cap further gains.
“Even though we sit in Asia, markets are still eagerly waiting for the Thursday CPI print out of the US so are sitting on their hands right now,” said Marcella Chow Hong Kong based global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.
“The market is currently expecting January’s CPI to be 7.3% versus 7% in December, and if it comes in higher than expected we could see 10 year yields go higher and even reach 2%, and push a value rotation,” she said.
Higher yields typically cause investors to move out of so called growth stocks, particularly technology names, into value stocks.
US treasury yields held firm in Asian trading, after touching multiyear highs the day before as did yields in the eurozone.
The yield on 10-year treasury notes was 1.9559%, having hit 1.97% on Tuesday, its highest since November 2019, and the two-year was 1.3435%, just below its highest since March 2020.
In Asia, the 10-year Japanese government bond yield rose one basis point to 0.215%, its highest since January 2016.
Currency markets were pretty quiet, though the dollar touched a one-month high against the yen, as the gains US yields outpace those in Japan.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six peers was steady at 95.536.
Oil regained some ground after falling earlier in the week due to optimism around talks with Iran, leading to a possible rise in supply.
Brent crude futures rose 0.3%, to $91.01 a barrel, while US crude was at $89.47 a barrel, up 0.1%.
Spot gold was steady at $1826/oz.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.