February 25, 2024

Asian markets mixed ahead of US inflation data

HONG KONG, Feb 12 — Markets were mixed in Asia today in holiday-thinned trade as investors look ahead to the release of crucial US inflation data due this week.

Another record close for the S&P 500 in New York did little to inspire buying on a day when most of the region is closed for the Lunar New Year break.

Wall Street welcomed revised data showing the US consumer price index (CPI) came down on-month in December.

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That added to optimism that the Federal Reserve is on course to get inflation under control, though observers were sceptical as to whether officials will cut interest rates as early as markets expect.

Comments from Fed officials in recent weeks have pushed back against market bets on a series of cuts this year starting in March, with commentators now tipping a first move in May.

Still, sentiment was helped by the belief that while rates remain elevated, the world’s top economy is still strong, with most experts hopeful it will not drop into recession, as had been feared last year.

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Eyes are now on the release of January CPI figures, which are forecast to show another slowdown.

“High inflation rarely has been tamed without precipitating a recession,” said Ed Yardeni of Yardeni Research Inc

“The Fed has steered inflation down toward its two per cent target, while allowing the US economy to fly, avoiding a hard landing.”

The S&P 500 finished above 5,000 points for the first time, marking its 10th all-time high this year, boosted by surges in tech titans including Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

But Asian investors were a little less enthusiastic, with Sydney, Bangkok, Mumbai and Wellington falling while Jakarta and Manila edged up.

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei, Seoul, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were all closed for holidays.

Oil prices dipped after Friday’s gains fuelled by geopolitical worries linked to the Middle East crisis. — AFP

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