Most Asia stocks slide on Fed officials' rate comments, dollar firms
By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Most Asian share markets tumbled on Monday while the U.S. dollar added to gains made after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated a U.S. interest rate increase remains on the cards for this year.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> extended losses to 1 percent.
Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> bucked the trend and climbed 2.3 percent, the biggest one-day gain in three weeks, as the yen weakened against the resurgent dollar.
China’s CSI 300 <.CSI300> and Shanghai Composite <.SSEC> indices shed early losses and were fractionally higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng <.HSI> pulled back 0.3 percent.
The case for a U.S. 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 U.S. business investment was weak and exports hurt by a strong dollar.
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 scrutinized will be U.S. consumer confidence for August, due Tuesday, productivity, manufacturing and construction figures on Thursday, and August non-farm payrolls data rounding out the week on Friday.
Traders, while raising expectations for rate increases this year, remained cautious. The odds of a hike in September rose to 33 percent following the comments, from 21 percent on Thursday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool. Traders were pricing in a 59.1 percent chance of a hike in December, up from 51.8 percent 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 U.S. currency, with the dollar index <.DXY>, which tracks the greenback against six global peers, jumping 0.8 percent on Friday. It held steady at 95.518 on Monday.
The dollar surged 1.3 percent against the yen <JPY=D4> on Friday to a two-week high, its biggest one-day advance in almost seven weeks. It extended those gains by 0.3 percent to 102.20 yen on Monday.
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 programs are having an effect, after figures on Friday showed a decline in consumer prices by the most in three years in July.
The euro <EUR=EBS> was flat at $1.12010 after tumbling 0.8 percent on Friday, its biggest one-day slide since July 15.
In commodities, the rally in the dollar and concerns about growing output after exports from Iraq in August exceeded July levels drove crude lower.
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.
U.S. crude futures <CLc1> fell 1.1 percent to $47.10.
Global benchmark Brent crude <LCOc1> also retreated 1.1 percent to $49.39.
(Editing by Kim Coghill and Richard Borsuk)