Hong Kong (AFP) – Asian markets limped into the weekend Friday at the end of a tough week dominated by the Federal Reserve’s hawkish tone that has set up an aggressive tightening of monetary policy, while oil drifted after another series of losses.
The region struggled to take a lead from Wall Street, which recovered from steep intraday losses to end on a positive note, having plunged in previous sessions as traders fretted over the prospect of higher interest rates.
While the Fed has made clear it intends to act more decisively to rein in 40-year-high inflation by ramping up borrowing costs and offloading bond holdings, analysts suggested the better clarity on policy was welcome.
The Fed’s desire to tighten up has sent the dollar rallying against most other major currencies and particularly the euro, which has been weighed by European officials’ reticence to move as aggressively on prices. The single currency is sitting around a one-month low.
Markets have come under huge pressure this year as the end of ultra-cheap central bank cash, a Covid-fuelled slowdown in China’s economic activity, the war in Ukraine and soaring inflation come together in a perfect storm.
Still, all three indexes on Wall Street ended slightly higher, having bounced back from heavy losses earlier in the day thanks to bargain-buying, while some observers suggested recent selling may have gone too far.
But Asia was unable to take up the reins.
Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok and Wellington were in the red, though Sydney, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta edged up.
Crude prices were barely moved in early Asian business at the end of another tough week after the United States and allies pledged to release more than 200 million barrels over the coming months to offset the loss of Russian supplies.
The decision comes on top of concerns about demand from China owing to lockdowns and other strict containment measures across the country including the biggest city Shanghai.
Still, there is a feeling that the war in Ukraine, and any possible further sanctions on Russia, could send the oil market higher again.
“I still think… the sentiment-driven sell-off will give way, and fundamentals will reassert themselves, especially as more market participants start fretting about how will the US administration replenish the SPR drawdown,” said SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes.
“Oil prices remain volatile amid concerns over Russian supply against the backdrop of slowing demand in China and a likely depressed US summer driving season due to higher prices at the pump.”
He added that “deficits are likely to persist but only moderated by the accelerated strategic stock release from May to November and weaker demand growth”.
Key figures around 0230 GMT
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 26,820.37 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.8 percent at 21,642.40
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,215.43
Brent North Sea crude: FLAT at $100.56 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.1 percent at $96.15 per barrel
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0863 from $1.0880 late Thursday
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3069 from $1.3071
Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.12 pence from 83.17 pence
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 123.85 yen from 123.95 yen
New York – Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 34,583.57 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 7,551.81 (close)
© 2022 AFP