Stocks in Asia rise ahead of US inflation data
Singapore — Asian shares inched up on Tuesday in cautious trading ahead of a crucial US inflation report that could heavily influence the US Federal Reserve’s policy outlook, while the fragile yen flirted with one-year lows, putting it back in the intervention zone.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.49% higher, while Tokyo’s Nikkei gained 0.36%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.61%.
The Japanese yen was at 151.71 per dollar in Asian hours, having touched a one-year low of 151.92 on Monday. If the battered currency breaks below last year’s trough of 151.94, it would mark a fresh 33-year low.
Japanese finance minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Tuesday that the government would take all possible steps necessary to respond to currency moves, repeating his usual mantra that excessive swings were undesirable.
The US inflation report, due later in the day, has investors’ attention on Tuesday, especially after Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and policymakers have said they are still not sure that interest rates are high enough to tame inflation.
Economists polled by Reuters expect headline US consumer price inflation slowed to 3.3% in October from 3.7% in September, with the so-called core inflation rate that strips out volatile components unchanged.
“This data holds significant sway over the Federal Reserve’s future policy direction,” said Anderson Alves, a trader with ActivTrades. “A miss, especially in the less volatile core inflation component, might lead traders to believe the Fed could refrain from further hikes. Conversely, a beat could prompt a noticeable repricing on the short-term US interest curve.”
China shares were higher, with the blue-chip CSI 300 index gaining 0.40%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index up 0.57%, ahead of a summit between the top leaders from the world’s two largest economies later this week.
Benchmark 10-year treasury yields were up 2.2 basis points at 4.654%, easing a touch from Monday’s one-week peak of 4.696%.
Moody’s cut its US AAA credit rating outlook to “negative” from “stable” on Friday, citing large fiscal deficits and a decline in debt affordability. Moody’s decision comes after rival Fitch downgraded the US’s top credit rating in August.
Gary Dugan, CIO at Dalma Capital, said the move underscores the structural challenges facing the US economy, characterised by unsustainable levels of debt and fiscal leniency.
“With the presidential election just a year away, it’s unlikely that the government will announce significant proposals to address these issues, given the unpopularity of promising spending cuts and tax increases,” Dugan said.
The US faces another partial government shutdown from Saturday if Congress does not pass a stopgap spending bill.
The yen’s broad decline has traders back to keeping an eye on whether the Japanese authorities will intervene. The currency is down about 14% against the dollar so far this year. The yen had jumped briefly against the dollar in New York hours on Monday after striking the year-to-date low, which analysts attributed to a flurry of trading in options that come due this week.
Nicholas Chia, macro strategist at Standard Chartered, said the swings in yen suggests markets are nervous over intervention risks, which also does the job for the authorities to an extent by curbing excessive speculation.
Japan last intervened in the currency market — selling dollars and buying yen — in October 2022. Intervention data released in October showed the authorities have steered clear of further such action since then.
The dollar index, which measures the US currency against six rivals, was up 0.057% at 105.69. The index is down 1% in November, on course to snap its three-month winning streak.
Oil prices was slightly higher after an Opec report said market fundamentals remained strong. US crude rose 0.26% to $78.46 per barrel and Brent was flat on the day.
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