• Speculation hits Asian stock markets

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    HONG KONG: Most Asian markets fell again Wednesday on increasing expectations the US Federal Reserve will hike interest rates in the summer, while traders were left disappointed by another weak data release from China.

    The likelihood of a Fed hike, coupled with the European Central Bank’s new bond-buying stimulus programme and fears over Greece, also sent the dollar surging against the yen and closer towards parity with the euro.

    Hong Kong slipped 0.75 percent, or 179.01 points, to 23,717.97 but Shanghai enjoyed a late rally to end up 0.15 percent, or 4.83 points, at 3,290.90, with investors hoping for further easing measures.

    Sydney lost 0.53 percent, or 31.0 points, to 5,793.2 and Seoul was off 0.20 percent, or 3.94 points, at 1,980.83.

    However, Tokyo ended 0.31 percent, or 58.41 points, higher at 18.723,52.

    Wall Street provided another negative lead as investors bet on a Fed rate rise sooner rather than later, with some predicting a move in June after Friday’s data showed a surge in US jobs creation in February.

    The Dow tumbled 1.85 percent, the S&P 500 fell 1.70 percent and the Nasdaq lost 1.67 percent.

    The jobs report ramped up dollar buying, which had already been strong owing to a string of upbeat indicators in recent weeks as well as monetary easing in the eurozone and Japan.

    In Japanese trade Wednesday, the greenback was at 121.34 yen, compared with 121.07 yen late in New York. At one point Tuesday it broke above 122.00 yen for the first time since late 2007.

    Adding to yen weakness has been a raft of poor data out of Japan, which has heaped pressure on the country’s central bank to further easing monetary policy.

    Weak China data
    The greenback also surged against the euro after the ECB kicked off its own bond-buying scheme, known as quantitative easing (QE), in a drive to fight off deflation.

    Worries about Greece’s tense talks due Wednesday over its bailout provisions were also sapping the euro.

    The euro bought $1.0653 — its lowest since June 2003 — compared with $1.0698 in US trade. The single currency was also at 129.26 yen against 129.53 yen.

    “This is not a time to stick your neck out and get too aggressive,” Ted Weisberg, president of Seaport Securities Corp. in New York, told Bloomberg TV.

    “You have the strong dollar and the very real threat of the Fed raising interest rates sooner, rather than later.”

    In China, growth in industrial output, retail sales and fixed asset investment all fell to multi-year lows in January-February, according to official data Wednesday, the latest indicators showing the world’s number two economy is suffering a severe slowdown.

    AFP

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