Jan 28 – The big questions for investors in Asia this week are whether the rebound in sentiment towards China is sustained, and whether the Federal Reserve vindicates or cools the growing belief in markets that it will soon start cutting US interest rates.
The Fed decision and Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference on Thursday will dominate proceedings, and the biggest market-moving event in Asia is potentially the release of Chinese purchasing managers index data.
The regional calendar also includes PMIs from across the continent, fourth-quarter GDP figures from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, and the latest inflation figures from Indonesia and South Korea.
Asian markets go into the week with their tails up. Bumper US GDP data combined with surprisingly low inflation last week provided further evidence that the world’s largest economy is steering clear of recession and headed for a soft landing.
This fueled a bullish burst of ‘risk on’ sentiment globally, while the positive reaction to China’s efforts to support its markets and economy added further local cheer.
Beijing’s latest move came on Sunday, with the securities regulator saying it will fully suspend the lending of restricted shares effective from Monday. Figures on Saturday, meanwhile, showed that industrial profits in China are shrinking at their slowest rate since October 2022.
China’s CSI 300 index of leading shares snapped a three-week losing streak and rose 2%, the Shanghai Composite jumped 2.75% for its best week since July, and the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index also snapped a three-week losing streak.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 bucked the trend and ended lower – its biggest fall in seven weeks – but not before clocking a new 34-year high just shy of 37,000 points. It would not be a total surprise if profit-taking and position-squaring extended into this week.
On the data front, China’s PMIs top the bill, providing the first glimpse into how Asia’s largest economy has started the year.
The official manufacturing PMI is expected to remain in contractionary territory for a fourth month, according to a Reuters poll, although edging up to 49.3 from 49.0 in December.
Manufacturing activity has been shrinking for most of the past year, underscoring the wider economy’s lackluster recovery from the pandemic and doubts over its trajectory.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Friday she doesn’t expect major spillovers from China’s economic travails. Beijing has taken steps to inject liquidity into the financial system and shore up the property sector, and markets have responded favorably, at least initially.
There are no policy decisions in Asia this week, although the Bank of Japan on Wednesday sheds more light on its thinking when it releases the summary of board members’ opinions from its Jan. 22-23 policy meeting.
Here are key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Monday:
– New Zealand trade (December)
– Singapore business expectations index (Q4)
– Euro zone flash GDP estimate (Q4)
(By Jamie McGeever; editing by Diane Craft)