Home Economy News Asia stocks climb; gold, bitcoin drift after hitting record highs

Asia stocks climb; gold, bitcoin drift after hitting record highs


Asia stocks climb; gold, bitcoin drift after hitting record highs By Reuters

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Published Mar 05, 2024 09:36PM ET
Updated Mar 06, 2024 01:46AM ET

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk on a pedestrian bridge at the central business district (CBD) during morning rush hour, ahead of the opening of the National People’s Congress (NPC), in Beijing, China, February 29, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

By Ankur Banerjee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian stocks rose on Wednesday as traders awaited policy cues from Beijing during its week-long annual session of parliament after a prior lack of stimulus measures disappointed some investors, while gold and bitcoin eased after touching record peaks.

Traders were also hesitant to place major bets ahead of congressional testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell starting later on Wednesday that will be parsed to gauge if and when the U.S. central bank is ready to start cutting interest rates.

Chinese stocks were mixed a day after Beijing set a widely expected 5% growth target for 2024 at a key parliament meeting that lacked major stimulus measures.

The blue-chip CSI 300 Index was 0.08% lower while Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng spiked 2% higher, rebounding from Tuesday’s 2.5% dive.

“The 2024 (China) economic targets still show officials are unwilling to quickly reflate the economy given concerns about excessive debt and the weakness of the yuan,” said Mansoor Mohi-uddin, chief economist at the Bank of Singapore.

An economy-focused press conference at 0700 GMT on Wednesday, where representatives from People’s Bank of China and other regulators may respond to media inquiries, will be scrutinised by investors looking for more policy details.

The wait-and-see approach made for a lacklustre trading session in Asia, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan initially slipping before reversing course to trade 0.46% higher.

Wall Street’s three major indexes retreated more than 1% on Tuesday, with weakness in megacap growth companies such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and the chip sector weighing most on the tech-heavy Nasdaq. [.N]

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.09%. European bourses are set for slightly higher open, with the Eurostoxx 50 futures up 0.10%, German DAX futures up 0.14% and FTSE futures up 0.05%.

A key event for investors in Britain will be the government’s budget, in which Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt will do his utmost to cut taxes while avoiding the ire of bond markets.

In the U.S., data on Tuesday showed a waning expansion of the services sector, and a steeper-than-expected drop in new factory orders, with the spotlight now firmly on payrolls data due later in the week.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields steadied in Asian hours and were last at 4.147%, having dipped to a one-month low of 4.112% in the previous session after weak data.

Traders are scouring U.S. economic data and policymakers speeches to gauge when the Fed would start cutting rates. Markets are pricing in a 68% chance of the Fed starting its easing cycle in June, CME FedWatch tool showed. They have priced in 88 basis points of cuts this year.

That makes Powell’s congressional appearances starting on Wednesday a significant event, although analysts expect the Fed chair to stick to his message.

“Of particular interest to markets is whether there is unanimity within the Fed on the continued descent in inflation, given the robust economic backdrop,” said Nicholas Chia, macro strategist at Standard Chartered (OTC:SCBFF).

“Powell’s testimony may offer more colour on the debates going on within the FOMC over their take on the deceleration in price pressures, and whether they will take the plunge to cut rates before inflation is back at the 2% target.”

In the currency market, the Japanese yen yen strengthened 0.08% to 149.93 per dollar, while sterling was flat on the day at $1.2704 ahead of Britain’s budget announcement.

The euro last bought $1.0853 ahead of a policy decision from the European Central bank on Thursday.

The ECB is widely expected to leave interest rates at a record 4%, but the focus will be on clues about when rates might start to fall in the wake of stubborn inflation.

Data last week showed euro zone inflation dipped in February but underlying price growth remained high, adding to the case for the ECB to hold rates at record highs a bit longer before starting to ease policy towards mid-year.

Markets are pricing in 90 basis points of cuts from ECB this year.

In cryptocurrency, bitcoin was hovering around $66,000, having breached a record high of $69,202 in the previous session, fuelled by investors pouring money into U.S. spot exchange-traded crypto products.

Spot gold wobbled to $2,127.36 an ounce after touching all-time high of $2,141.59 on Tuesday. [GOL/]

U.S. crude rose 0.29% to $78.38 per barrel and Brent was at $82.27, up 0.28% on the day. [O/R]

Asia stocks climb; gold, bitcoin drift after hitting record highs

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