JUST IN: Asian markets fluctuate as traders weigh US rate outlook

Asian markets fluctuate as traders weigh US rate outlook

Asian markets fluctuate as traders weigh US rate outlook

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Chicago Federal Reserve President Austan Goolsbee said he still saw three rate cuts this year.
: CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH /Getty Images via AFP
Source: AFP

Asian stocks swung through the morning session Tuesday as traders weighed the outlook for US interest rates ahead of the release of a key inflation reading.

Investors are also gearing up for the corporate earnings season, with some observers warning that profit expectations, which have helped push several markets to record highs, may have gone too far and disappointing reports could spark a pullback in equities.

While last week's Federal Reserve guidance pointed to three cuts before the end of the year, strong economic data and comments from some central officials have fuelled worries it could come up short.

The projections sparked a rally on markets and calmed traders spooked by the previous week's data showing consumer and wholesale prices rose more than estimated in February.

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Asian markets mixed as key US inflation data looms

However, with the US economy still showing few signs of trouble and the market still strong investors are reticent, with the closely watched personal consumption expenditures (PCE) — the Fed's preferred gauge — the main focus.

Readings on economic growth, jobless claims and sentiment are also up for release.

“After a strong performance last week, investors may be taking a hiatus and possibly enjoying the spring break, while others are adopting a wait-and-see approach for the next bullish catalyst, such as a favourable outcome from the Fed's preferred inflation gauge,” said SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes.

“In this context, an ‘all-clear' signal would entail the inflation data meeting consensus expectations or coming in lower than anticipated.”

Mixed signals from Fed officials in recent days have done little to remove any uncertainty.

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Asian markets struggle as US data dents Fed rate cut optimism

Atlanta president Raphael Bostic on Monday reiterated his comments Friday that he saw only one cut this year, adding that too quickly could be disruptive, while governor Lisa Cook said decision-makers should be cautious.

However, the Fed's Chicago chief Austan Goolsbee stuck to the three-cut line.

All three main indexes ended down on Wall Street as talk swirls that the recent rally may have been overdone.

Asia fluctuated, with Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei all rising but Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, Wellington, Manila and Jakarta in the red.

The yen was holding above 151 per , with any further weakness offset by a warning from Japanese officials that they were ready to step in to support the currency if it retreats too much.

And oil prices held Monday's gains that came on the back of fresh geopolitical worries and following the latest attack on a Russian crude refinery that sparked supply concerns, while Israel's planned assault on Rafah in Gaza was also causing some unease.

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Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 40,364.40 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.6 percent at 16,568.54

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,020.42

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 151.33 yen from 151.42 yen on Monday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0843 from $1.0841

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2645 from $1.2638

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.74 pence from 85.76 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percent at $82.22 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.3 percent at $86.98 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.4 percent at 39,313.64 (close)

– FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,917.57 (close)

Source: AFP

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