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Most Asia stocks slide on Fed officials' rate comments, dollar firms

The case for a US rate hike has strengthened in recent months, and economic growth looks likely to continue at a moderate pace, Yellen said in a speech at the Fed's annual monetary policy conference on Friday. Photograph: (Getty)

Reuters Singapore Aug 29, 2016, 07.39 AM (IST)
Most Asian share markets tumbled on Monday while the US dollar added to gains made after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen indicated a US interest rate increase remains on the cards for this year.

European markets also looked set for a weak start, with financial spreadbetters expecting Germany's DAX to open down 0.7 per cent, and the blue-chip Euro Stoxx 50 to begin the day 0.6 per  cent lower. British markets are closed for a holiday.

The broadest index of MSCI, a US-based provider of investment decision support tools to investment institutions worldwide, of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan extended losses to 1 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei bucked the trend, closing 2.3 per cent higher, the biggest one-day gain in three weeks, as the yen weakened against the resurgent dollar.

China's CSI 300 index and the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.2 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.4 per cent.

The case for a US rate hike has strengthened in recent months, with a lot of new jobs being created, and economic growth looks likely to continue at a moderate pace, Yellen said in a speech at the Fed's annual monetary policy conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday.

While Yellen did not give guidance on what the central bank needs to see before raising rates, she said the Fed already thinks it is close to meeting its goals of maximum employment and stable prices. She described consumer spending as "solid" but noted that US business investment was weak and exports hurt by a strong dollar.
 
While Yellen did not give guidance on what the central bank needs to see before raising rates, she said the Fed already thinks it is close to meeting its goals of maximum employment and stable prices.

Comments by the Fed's No. 2 policymaker, vice chair Stanley Fischer, following Yellen's speech also bolstered the case for a hike this year.

Asked on CNBC whether a rate hike in September and more than one policy tightening before year-end should be expected, Fischer said Yellen's comments were "consistent with answering yes" to both questions, albeit still data-dependent.

Among the first data to be scrutinised will be US consumer confidence for August, due on Tuesday; productivity, manufacturing and construction figures on Thursday; and August non-farm payrolls data rounding out the week on Friday.

Global factory activity surveys will also be released on Thursday.

Traders have modestly raised expectations for US rate increases this year, but remain cautious.

The odds of a hike in September rose to 33 per cent following the comments, from 21 per cent on Thursday, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool. Traders were pricing in a 59.1 per cent chance of a hike in December, up from 51.8 per cent on Thursday.

"While the move towards another Fed rate hike will likely cause bouts of consternation in investment markets, I don’t see the same degree of uncertainty that we saw around last year’s Fed rate hike," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney, wrote in a note.

"It's clear from the Fed's actions this year that it is aware of global risks, the impact of its own actions on those risks and any potential blow back to the U.S. economy and of the impact of a rising U.S. dollar in doing some of its work for it."

The comments from Yellen and Fischer dragged Wall Street lower at the close.

But they proved a boon for the US currency, with the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six global peers, jumping 0.8 percent on Friday. It held steady at 95.552 on Monday.

The dollar rose 0.5 per cent to a two-week high of 102.34 yen on Monday. That followed gains of 1.3 per cent on Friday, its biggest one-day advance in almost seven weeks.

Japanese household spending and retail sales data for July are due on Tuesday. Investors are seeking some sign that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's massive stimulus programmes are having an effect, after figures on Friday showed a decline in consumer prices by the most in three years in July.

The euro was flat at $1.120 after tumbling 0.8 per cent on Friday, its biggest one-day slide since July 15.

In commodities, crude prices retreated on the rally in the dollar and concerns about growing output after exports from Iraq in August exceeded July levels.

Iran also said late last week that it would only cooperate in upcoming producer talks in September if other exporters recognized Tehran's right to regain market share lost during international sanctions that were only lifted in January.

US crude futures dropped 1.5 per cent to $46.95.

Global benchmark Brent crude retreated 1.2 per cent to $49.31.

The stronger dollar also weighed on gold. Spot gold slipped 0.2 per cent to $1,318.10, after earlier touching a five-week low.

(Reuters)
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