Asian shares firm as Fed tempers aggressive rate hike bets

Hong Kong, Asian shares tracked Wall Street gains on Thursday after the U.S. central bank raised interest rates by 50 basis points but sounded a less hawkish tone than some had feared, lifting investor sentiment and sending the dollar lower.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.93%, although trading was thin with Japanese and Korean markets closed for public holidays.

China’s shares defied the broader rally with rising COVID-19 cases and a strict lockdown in the financial hub of Shanghai weighing on sentiment.

Marcella Chow, Hong Kong-based global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, said the Federal Reserve’s 50-basis point hike was in line with expectations, hence removing some investor concerns about a more aggressive move.

“Given the Asian market has more certainty right now, I think this will probably also cause the market to rally a bit as well,” she said, according to Reuters.

Asia’s gains followed a U.S. rally overnight where the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.81%, the S&P 500 gained 2.99% and the Nasdaq advanced 3.19%.

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index rose 0.77% in early trading, with the tech sector index adding 1.43%.

This week, Hong Kong stocks have edged lower while the offshore Chinese yuan has been volatile though still stronger than it was last week.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 also performed strongly with a 0.61% increase.

However, China’s benchmark CSI300 opened 0.16% lower as mainland markets resumed trade after a three-day holiday.

“There are still COVID-19 cases in Shanghai and different cities so this will continue to also potentially drag consumer and investor sentiment,” J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s Chow said.

The Fed’s half a percentage point rate increase was the biggest jump in 22 years. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said policymakers were ready to approve similar-sized rate hikes at upcoming policy meetings in June and July.

Powell also said the Fed was not “actively considering” a 75 basis-point rate hike, tempering some market expectations for an aggressive tightening path.

That sent the dollar lower, where it stayed in early Asia.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six peers, was at 102.49, having been as firm as 103.63 on Wednesday.

U.S. Treasuries were not trading because of the holiday in Japan, but yields also fell overnight. The benchmark 10-year yield was last 2.9402%, down from just over 3%.

U.S. crude futures gained 0.4% to $108.21 a barrel and Brent rose 0.36% $110.54. Both benchmarks rose over $5 a barrel on Wednesday.

Source: Bahrain News Agency

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