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Asian shares face hurdles as investors eye global inflation data

Asian shares face hurdles as investors eye global inflation data
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February 27, 2024 (MLN): Asian shares struggled to advance on Tuesday, with slightly warmer-than-expected Japanese inflation putting investors on guard ahead of price data due in Europe and the U.S. this week, as Reuters reported.

The yen steadied at 150.57 to the dollar and inched off a three-month low on the euro as Japanese inflation stayed at the central bank's 2% year-on-year target, keeping alive expectations it would exit negative rates by April.

Tokyo's Nikkei crept 0.4% higher to eke a fresh record high. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat, keeping beneath last week's seven-month peak.

Wall Street indexes fell overnight and S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures nudged 0.1% lower in morning trade.

The Federal Reserve's favored measure of inflation – the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index – is due on Thursday and forecasts are for a rise of 0.4%.

"If as expected, the core m/m reading would be the highest since last February and fit with the patience message from the Fed," said analysts at ANZ Bank.

Rate jitters and enormous auctions, $127 billion on Tuesday and another $42bn on Wednesday left Treasuries under pressure, though yields steadied in the Asia morning.

Ten-year U.S. Treasury yields were last 2 basis points lower at 4.27%. Two-year yields fell four basis points to 4.70%.

Markets have already pushed out the likely timing of a first Federal Reserve easing from May to June, which is currently priced at around a 70% probability. Futures imply a little more than three quarter-point cuts this year, compared to five at the start of the month.

On the geopolitical front, U.S. President Joe Biden said he hopes to have a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza start by next Monday as the warring parties appeared to close in on a deal.

Brent crude futures kept to recent ranges, rising 0.2% or 16 cents to $82.69 a barrel.

Figures on inflation in the European Union are also due this week, on Friday, with the core gauge again seen slowing to the lowest since early 2022 at 2.9% and bringing nearer the day when the European Central Bank (ECB) might ease policy.

Markets are almost fully priced for a first cut in June, with April seen as a 36% chance. In speeches on Monday, ECB President Christine Lagarde and Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras again pointed to a reticence to rush into cuts.

Bank of England deputy Dave Ramsden and Riksbank Governor Erik Thedeen appear later on Tuesday while a smattering of mostly second-tier U.S. and European data are due including consumer confidence for Germany, France, and the U.S.

Currency trade was fairly subdued in the early Asian hours, with recent pressure on the Australian and New Zealand dollars extending. The Aussie fell 0.1% to a one-week low of $0.6530, squeezed by a tumble in iron ore prices.

The kiwi was down 0.3% and also at a week low as traders trimmed wagers that New Zealand's central bank might even hike interest rates when it meets on Wednesday.

"With 9 bp priced, we see modest NZD weakness on the announcement," said NatWest Markets currency strategist Antony George.

The euro held steady at $1.0848 and sterling inched down to $1.2676. Bitcoin rose sharply overnight on news that software firm MicroStrategy added to its holdings. It was steady at $54,777. Gold held at $2,032 an ounce.

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Posted on: 2024-02-27T11:02:23+05:00