Asian markets mostly down as inflation concerns persist

Pedestrians walk past an electric quotation board displaying the numbers on the Nikkei 225 Index on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo December 2, 2019. — AFP pic
Pedestrians walk past an electric quotation board displaying the numbers on the Nikkei 225 Index on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo December 2, 2019. — AFP pic

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HONG KONG, May 3 — Asian markets mostly fell today following a soft lead from Wall Street, hit by profit-taking and lingering inflation worries.

With bourses closed in Japan and China for holidays most of the week, traders were easing back from their recent buying frenzy while there are also concerns that the more than year-long rally may have gone a little too far.

Investment giant Warren Buffett instilled some unease after saying at the weekend that he expected the US economy was in “super high gear” thanks to massive Federal Reserve and government support but that it would fan inflation.

He said, “people have money in their pocket and they’re paying higher prices” and there was more inflation than expected six months ago.

His comments revived concerns that the explosive recovery, vaccinations and easing of lockdowns would push up prices to the extent that the Fed would have to ease up on its market-supportive, ultra-loose monetary policies.

Those worries continue to hover over trading floors despite Fed boss Jerome Powell’s repeated insistence that they will not tighten policy until they are happy that unemployment has been tamed and inflation is running consistently hot for some time.

However, Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan broke ranks with Powell on Friday as he said tapering could soon be considered.

“We’re now at a point where I’m observing excesses and imbalances in financial markets,” he said.

“I’m very attentive to that, and that’s why I do think at the earliest opportunity I think will be appropriate for us to start talking about adjusting those purchases.”

National Australia Bank’s Ray Attrill said in a note: “The main overarching rationale remains on the pace of the recovery which he sees as being much faster than he previously expected and now forecasts unemployment at 4 per cent by year’s end.

“If that scenario plays out, it is also conceivable rate rises may start earlier, with Kaplan stating the Fed may need to raise rates next year.” 

Hong Kong and Singapore were down more than one per cent, while Taipei shed two per cent. There were also losses in Seoul, Mumbai, and Jakarta though Wellington was up. Sydney and Manila were flat.

Paris and Frankfurt were both well up in early trade, with London closed for a holiday.

The losses came despite data showing a better-than-forecast jump in factory activity in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Traders will be keenly watching the release of US jobs data this week, which will provide the latest snapshot of the world’s top economy and its recovery.

Oil prices fell further, having shed around two per cent on Friday on concerns that the frightening coronavirus surge in India will hit demand in the huge economy.

Key figures around 0810 GMT

Hong Kong — Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.3 per cent at 28,357.54 (close)

Tokyo — Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday 

Shanghai — Composite: Closed for a holiday

London — FTSE 100: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.2039 from US$1.2021 at 2100 GMT Friday

Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.3840 from US$1.3814

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.98 pence from 87.02 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.64 yen from 109.33 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 per cent at US$63.52 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.1 per cent at US$66.66 per barrel

New York — Dow: DOWN 0.5 per cent at 33,874.85 (close)

Bloomberg News contributed to this story — AFP

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