Asian markets mixed in holiday-hit trade

HONG KONG – Asian markets were mixed in holiday-thinned trade Monday, while the dollar dropped as investors lowered their expectations for US interest rate hikes.

Tokyo was the standout performer, rallying more than one percent following a blockbuster performance on Wall Street, where all three main indexes enjoyed a strong end to last week thanks to a tech rally.

Comments from top Federal Reserve officials provided support to equities after they indicated the bank could lift rates at a much slower pace as inflation gradually comes down.

Governor Christopher Waller said he was open to a 25-basis-point lift at the next policy meeting, though he did point out that the market’s view on inflation was “very optimistic”.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Fed boss Patrick Harker again called for slower increases.

And Kansas City boss Esther George said she was optimistic the world’s top economy could still achieve a soft landing, despite worries that a series of big rate hikes last year would tip it into recession.

Adding to the positive mood is China’s re-emergence from years of zero-Covid measures that essentially cut the country off from the rest of the world, hammering growth.

With most of the region closed for the Lunar New Year holiday, trading was thin.

Still, Tokyo led gains, while Sydney was also in positive territory.

However, there were small losses in Manila and Wellington.

“Although most Asian markets are closed for Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, Japanese and Australian stocks are picking up on the better mood from US investors and on expectations of China’s economy returning to some semblance of a pre-pandemic trend,” said SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes.

Lower expectations for US interest rates weighed on the dollar against its major peers, while oil prices were also down after last week hitting its highest level since November. – AFP 

Key figures around 0230 GMT

  • Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 percent at 26,852.85 (break)
  • Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: Closed for a holiday
  • Shanghai – Composite: Closed for a holiday
  • Dollar/yen: DOWN at 129.16 yen from 129.51 yen on Friday
  • Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0896 from $1.0861
  • Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2433 from $1.2404
  • Euro/pound: UP at 87.64 pence from 87.52 pence
  • West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.4 percent at $81.28 a barrel
  • Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.5 percent at $87.22 a barrel
  • New York – Dow: UP 1.0 percent at 33,375.49 (close)
  • London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,770.59 (close)