Asian shares fall on Fed officials’ hawkish policy stance

An electronic stock quotation board is displayed inside a conference hall in Tokyo, Japan November 1, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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  • MSCI Asia ex-Japan falls after Fed officials strike hawkish tones
  • Bank of Korea hikes benchmark rate 25bps to 1.25%
  • Govt bonds, yen catch bid amid risk-off mood
  • Dollar steady, halting three days of losses

TOKYO, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Asian shares took a beating on Friday after a fresh salvo of hawkish remarks from Federal Reserve officials solidified expectations that U.S. interest rates could rise as soon as March, leaving markets braced for tighter monetary conditions.

Fed Governor Lael Brainard became the latest and most senior U.S. central banker on Thursday to signal that rates will rise in March to combat inflation. read more

Equity markets turned deeply red with investors seeking shelter in safer assets such as government debt.

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MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) shed 0.8% in mid-morning trade, while Australia (.AXJO) lost 1.2% and Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) shed 1.9% by the midday break.

South Korean shares (.KS11) dropped 1.5% after its central bank raised its benchmark rate 25 basis points to 1.25% on Friday, taking it back to where it was before the pandemic as it seeks to restrain consumer price rises. read more

China’s blue-chip index (.CSI300) was down 0.3% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index (.HIS) was off 0.6%.

“Everyone is really nervous right now. It’s because everything is potentially going to come under pressure from aggressive Fed policy,” said Kyle Rodda, a market analyst at IG in Melbourne.

“There’s the hope that it’ll be a slow and painless handoff to normal policy,” he added. “But that’s not necessarily assured with the Fed taking inflation so seriously.”

Fed Governor Christopher Waller, who has repeatedly called for a more aggressive response to high inflation, later on Thursday said a rapid-fire series of four or five U.S. rate hikes could be warranted if inflation doesn’t recede.

U.S. inflation as measured by the consumer price index surged 7.0% in December, posting its biggest year-on-year increase in nearly four decades, data on Wednesday showed. read more


In the bond market, yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes were at 1.725%, slowly creeping up to Monday’s near two-year highs, signalling investors’ preference for the safety of government debt over volatile technology and growth stocks.

Japan’s 10-year government bond yield hit as high as 0.156%, its highest since March 2021.

Markets were facing a more persistent risk of growing demand for safe-havens, especially around key events involving U.S. central bank policy and U.S. data, IG’s Rodda said.

“This is a problem because every asset has arguably been inflated by loose monetary policy,” he added.

“Every asset will have to correct to reflect higher or tighter monetary policy.”

The Fed’s hawkish shift has tended to benefit the U.S. dollar, though it did not catch much of a bid on Friday, losing ground against the Japanese yen, which traditionally has drawn demand from flights to…

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