Home Economy News Morning Bid: Powell sparks stock volatility, yen soars

Morning Bid: Powell sparks stock volatility, yen soars


By Jamie McGeever

(Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in Asian markets.

Asia gets back up toward full speed on Thursday after many markets were closed for the May Day holiday, with the U.S. Fed’s guidance, a surging yen and manufacturing PMIs from across the continent all serving as potential market sign posts.

Asia’s economic calendar is jam-packed on Thursday, with highlights including: manufacturing PMIs from seven countries, consumer inflation from South Korea and Indonesia, Hong Kong’s first quarter GDP, Australian trade figures, and consumer confidence from Japan.

Moves in U.S. trading on Wednesday will likely set the early market tone – Wall Street gyrated, yields tumbled and the dollar fell after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said an interest rate hike was “unlikely”, and that his baseline scenario is still for inflation to cool and pave the way for lower interest rates.

This came after the Fed announced a more aggressive tapering of its quantitative tightening program than had been expected. Taken together, the overarching signal was dovish. 

Treasuries and the dollar played ball, but Wall Street didn’t – stocks surged as much as 1.5% on Powell’s comments before the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed in the red.

Will Powell’s dovish stance, certainly relative to the hawkish drum beat that had dominated markets in recent days, get investors dancing to a more upbeat tune?

Global stocks had kicked off the new month on Wednesday on the defensive, as doubts over the U.S. economy’s resilience, high bond yields and some U.S. earnings misses sapped risk appetite.

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Some of that gloom may lift, if only temporarily. 

There may also have been a few sighs of relief at the Bank of Japan and Ministry of Finance in Tokyo – the dollar’s fall relieves pressure on the yen, and by extension, pressure for further yen-buying intervention from Japanese authorities.

Indeed, the yen staged an extraordinary rally in late U.S. trade on Wednesday, strengthening more than 2% past where it was just before the BOJ’s policy decision last Friday. 

Zooming out from Wednesday’s Fed frenzy, and the extraordinary upward shift in implied U.S. rates this year is being widely felt – easing expectations around the world have been pared back, and rates in Australia, for example, are more likely to be raised this year than cut. 

One central bank that has raised rates is Bank Indonesia, with its surprise move last month. Sticky inflation numbers on Thursday could bolster expectations of further tightening – rates markets currently expect another quarter-point increase by the summer.

South Korea’s annual inflation rate, meanwhile, is seen slowing slightly to 3.0% – probably not enough of a decline to move the dial on the Bank of Korea’s rate outlook. 

Here are key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Thursday:

– Manufacturing PMIs (April)

– South Korea, Indonesia CPI inflation (April) 

– Japan consumer confidence (April)

(Reporting and Writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Josie Kao)

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