Asian shares extend global rout, yen perks up on intervention hints

Asian shares extend global rout, yen perks up on intervention hints

Thailand's benchmark SET index drops 0.74%

Pedestrians pass a display showing the numbers for the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (AFP photo)
Pedestrians pass a display showing the numbers for the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (AFP photo)

SYDNEY: Asian stocks tumbled on Wednesday as US data dashed hopes for an immediate peak in inflation, although the dollar paused its relentless run against the yen as Japan gave its strongest signal yet it was unhappy with the currency's sharp declines.

Data on Tuesday showed the headline US consumer price index gained 0.1% on a monthly basis versus expectations for a 0.1% decline. In particular, core inflation, stripping out volatile food and energy prices, doubled to 0.6%.

Wall Street saw its steepest fall in two years, the safe-haven dollar posted its biggest jump since early 2020, and two-year Treasury yields, which rise with traders' expectations of higher Fed fund rates, jumped to the highest level in 15 years.

The stock rout is set to hit European markets, with the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures, German DAX futures and FTSE futures off more than 0.7%.

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 2.2% on Wednesday, dragged lower by a 2.4% plunge in resources-heavy Australia, a 2.5% drop in Hong Kong's Hang Seng index and a 1.5% fall in Chinese bluechips. 

Japan's Nikkei tumbled 2.6%.

Thailand's benchmark SET index was down 0.74% at 2.35pm on Wednesday.

After a heavy equity selloff overnight, both the S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures rose 0.2%.

"Markets have reacted violently to what I would consider to be a modest miss in US CPI," said Scott Rundell, chief investment officer at Mutual Limited.

"Futures have stabilised, so we might see a dead-cat bounce tonight."

Financial markets now have fully priced in an interest rate hike of at least 75 basis points at the conclusion of the Fed's policy meeting next week, with a 38% probability of a super-sized, full-percentage-point increase to the Fed funds target rate, according to CME's FedWatch tool.

A day earlier, the probability of a 100 bps hike was zero.

"USD rates are now pricing in a Fed funds rate of 4.25% by end-2022 (75bps, 75bps, 25bps for the remaining three meetings). Decent odds of a 4.5% peak early 2023 is also reflected," said Eugene Leow, senior rates strategist at Deutsche Bank.

"While resilient growth and slowing inflation can make for a better risk-taking environment, the US economy now looks too hot still. With no clear signs of the labour market slowing and inflation still problematic, a downshift from the Fed looks set to be delayed again."

The strength of the US dollar had pressured the rate sensitive Japanese yen close to its 24-year low at 149.96 yen before giving up some of the gains on news that the Bank of Japan has conducted a rate check in apparent preparation for currency intervention.

Yen-buying intervention is rare. The last time Japan intervened to support its currency was in 1998, when the Asian financial crisis triggered a yen sell-off and rapid capital outflows.

Earlier in the day, Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said that currency intervention was among options the government would consider.

The dollar now hovered at 143.7 yen, down 0.6% for the day.

Many traders remained doubtful that intervention was imminent, but the jump in the yen pointed to rising nerves. The timing of the BOJ's move also suggests that 145 per dollar will be an important level for markets and the authorities.

The two-year US Treasury yield scaled a new 15-year high of 3.8040% on Friday before retreating to 3.7629%, and its curve gap with the benchmark 10-year yields widened to around 34 basis points, compared with just 16 basis points a week ago.

The yield curve inversion is usually treated as a warning of recession.

The 10-year Treasury note yield held steady at 3.4178%.

Oil prices edged lower on Friday. US crude settled down 0.6% at $86.82 per barrel and Brent eased by a similar margin at $92.65.

Gold was slightly higher. Spot gold was traded at $1703.02 per ounce.

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