Asian stocks steady, dollar’s ascent interrupted

SINGAPORE – Asian stock markets edged up on Tuesday while comments from central banks in China and Japan interrupted the dollar’s ascent, giving traders a breather ahead of U.S. inflation data that could influence when or if the Federal Reserve raises rates further.

The yen notched its best day against the dollar in two months overnight, after Bank of Japan Governor Kazuo Ueda said policymakers might have enough economic information by the year-end to determine that short-term rates will need to rise.

The yuan had its best day in six months after authorities vowed to correct one-way moves and Reuters reported the central bank had stepped up scrutiny of dollar buying.

Both, however, remain near their weakest levels of the year and with the yuan at 7.3016 per dollar in offshore trade and the yen was last at 146.68 per dollar, a little weaker than its best level on Monday.

Japanese government bonds remained under pressure on Tuesday, with 10-year JGB yields up 1 basis point to a fresh high of 0.71 percent.

“The result of Ueda’s comments was an intense move higher in Japanese swaps and government bond yields,” said Chris Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne.

“(It) is certainly constructive for yen longs. (But) I refrain from getting too excited at this stage…where the actions are more of a medium-term issue – we won’t get the outcome of the spring wage negotiations until April 2024.”

Investors in China drew some comfort from news that the country’s largest private property developer Country Garden has won approval from creditors to extend repayments on six onshore bonds by three years.

That lifted Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index as much as 1.5 percent, reversing an earlier drop of more than 2 percent.

“This is likely just another case of kicking the can down the road, but it seems to have slowed the bleeding on the property index at least,” said Matt Simpson, senior market analyst at City Index.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.12 percent. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.61 percent, with markets looking to U.S. inflation data and this week’s European Central Bank meeting to set interest rate expectations and the mood.

Due on Wednesday, markets are expecting the U.S. figures to show z core inflation falling to 4.3% in August though the headline number is seen ticking up to 3.6 percent.

“A lower-than-expected print may slow the U.S. dollar’s rise while higher print could potentially un-nerve risk sentiments as it would reinforce market expectations for further rate hikes, and this could fuel dollar strength,” said OCBC strategist Christopher Wong.

Interest-rate futures markets are pricing about a 45- percent chance of another U.S. rate hike by year’s end.

Investors’ appetite for risk is also to be tested this week when British chip designer Arm Holdings lists in New York with a goal of raising almost $5 billion.

Overnight, the weaker dollar and upgrade on Tesla from analysts at Morgan Stanley helped U.S. stock markets gain. Tesla rose 10 percent. The S&P 500 rose 0.7 percent.

In early Asia trade, U.S. futures slipped 0.11 percent.

Elsewhere in currency markets, the Australian dollar was weighed by a further slip in consumer sentiment, which has been below the neutral 100 mark since March 2022 – the longest streak since a recession in the early 1990s.

The Aussie, which bounced on Monday with gains in the yuan, was last 0.04 percent higher at $0.6433. The New Zealand dollar meanwhile dipped 0.3 percent to $0.5918.

The euro notched a one-week high against the dollar, though moves have been muted with investors dialing back long euro positions ahead of Thursday’s ECB meeting. Pricing implies about a 56- percent chance that policymakers leave rates on hold.

“There is a sense that ECB is already done for the cycle,” said Maybank analysts in a note to clients.

“Recent PMI prints suggest that growth outlook could be deteriorating and puts the euro at risk of further downside. This is all the more amplified by lingering expectations for the Fed to hike further.”

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields were steady at 4.2940 percent.

In commodity markets, Brent crude futures were steady at $90.96 a barrel. Gold hung on at $1,922 an ounce, while bitcoin was out of favor and dropped below $25,000 for the first time in three months on Monday.

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