Asian shares slip on Fed hike, trade fears and soft China data

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares eased on Thursday after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates and took a more hawkish tone in forecasting a slightly faster pace of tightening, while concerns about U.S.-China trade frictions kept investors on edge.

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past electronic boards showing Japan’s Nikkei average (L), the Dow Jones Industrial Average (2nd L) and foreign exchange rates outside a brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Chinese retail sales and urban investment data were surprisingly weak, pouring cold water on investors’ risk appetite and adding to uncertainty over the world’s second-largest economy after its central bank unexpectedly left interest rates on hold.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS lost 0.5 percent. South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 was off 1.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng .HSI dipped 0.2 percent. Japan’s Nikkei .N225 shed 0.4 percent.

The Fed raised its benchmark overnight lending rate a quarter of a percentage point to a range of 1.75 percent to 2 percent, as expected, on the back of strong U.S. economic growth.

Fed policymakers’ rates projections pointed to two additional hikes by the end of this year compared to one previously, based on board members’ median forecast.

“The Fed was slightly more hawkish. But at the same time, the Fed is raising rates because of a strong economy and not because of the need to contain inflation. So that might have helped curb market reactions,” said Masayuki Kichikawa, chief macro strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

The spectre of higher borrowing costs hit stocks while boosting U.S. bond yields and the dollar. The overall market reaction was short-lived, however.

“When you look more closely, only eight board members saw two more hikes by the end of year, compared to seven who saw one hike. In March it was seven versus eight. So you are talking about a change of only one board member after all,” said Norihiro Fujito, senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at his news conference after the two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on interest rate policy in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

“The fact that markets quickly reversed their course suggests the Fed’s decision was broadly in line with expectations,” he said.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.40 percent and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 0.11 percent.

The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield hit a three-week high of 3.010 percent before quickly slipping back to 2.953 percent US10YT=RR.

Keeping investors in check were concerns about U.S. threats to impose tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with his top trade advisers on Thursday to decide on whether to activate the tariffs, a senior Trump administration official said.

In the currency market, the dollar had erased all its post-Fed gains as traders’ focus quickly shifted to the European Central Bank’s policy meeting later in the day.

Recent comments from top ECB officials have sparked expectations the ECB may offer clues on its intentions to end its bond purchases by the end of the year at its upcoming meeting.

The euro traded at $1.1801 EUR=, bouncing back from $1.1725 hit after the Fed’s policy announcement and not far off last week’s high of $1.1840 on June 7.

The dollar stood at 110.19 yen JPY=, losing steam after hitting a three-week high of 110.85 in the wake of the Fed’s decision.

The dollar index has erased all of its gains so far this week and stood at 93.501 .DXY.

The Australian dollar fell 0.3 percent to $0.7556 after China reported weaker-than-expected activity data for May, adding to views the economy is finally starting to slow under the weight of a prolonged crackdown on riskier lending that is pushing up borrowing costs for companies and consumers.

Some emerging market currencies were hit by worries higher U.S. interest rates could prompt investors to shift funds to the United States and also squeeze dollar borrowers in emerging markets.

The South African rand hit six-month lows ZAR=D3 while the Mexican peso dropped to 16-month lows MXN=D2.

Still, many Asian currencies remained fairly stable so far, thanks to robust growth in the region.

Oil prices were little changed but underpinned by a bigger-than-expected decline in U.S. crude inventories and surprise drawdowns in gasoline and distillates, which indicated strong demand in the world’s top oil consumer.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 traded at $66.67 a barrel, unchanged on the day but extending their recovery from eight-week low of $64.22 touched last week.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Jacqueline Wong



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