China to Put Dampener on Market Party

REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
The headquarters of the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, is pictured in Beijing, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, February 3, 2020.

A look at the day ahead in Asian markets.

A ‘Santa rally’ is in full swing across global stocks, with the Bank of Japan’s dovish tilt on Tuesday adding fuel to a fire already burning nicely after the Federal Reserve indicated last week that U.S. interest rates could be cut early next year.

Even Chinese stocks got in on the act, snapping a four-day losing streak, and Beijing is where investor attention in Asia turns on Wednesday as the People’s Bank of China prepares to deliver its latest policy decision.

If anything, however, the PBOC will spoil the party. It is widely expected to leave its one- and five-year loan prime rates unchanged at 3.45% and 4.20%, respectively, according to all 28 economists surveyed in a Reuters poll.

Beijing is under increasing pressure to significantly ease monetary or fiscal policy – or both – to heal the sickly property sector, kick-start growth and pull the economy out of deflation.

But that probably won’t come until some time next year, and although investors are fully anticipating no action on Wednesday, it will be another reminder of China’s policy predicament, economic travails and market vulnerabilities.

Japanese markets, on the other hand, got a shot in the arm after the BOJ doused speculation that its landmark move away from negative interest rates is imminent.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.4% and is now within 2% of November’s 33-year high; the yield on 10-year Japanese Government Bonds fell more than six basis points, one of its steepest daily declines this year; and the yen fell for a third day against the dollar, this time by 0.75%.

The yen’s losses against the euro were particularly steep, while the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars were among the biggest gainers against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday, both sitting around their highest in nearly five months.

The BOJ’s relatively dovish tilt boosted the positive risk appetite already coursing through global markets. Despite some push back from Fed officials, investors are still betting on as much as 150 basis points of rate cuts next year.

After the Dow Jones Industrials index ventured into uncharted territory last week, the tech-heavy Nasdaq followed suit on Tuesday, rising to a new peak just shy of 15,000 points, while the S&P 500 got within 1% of a new record high also.

The U.S. ‘FAANG’ index of mega tech stocks rose for a ninth straight day on Tuesday and, remarkably, has almost doubled in value this year. Perhaps this will give the Hang Seng tech index a much-needed boost on Wednesday.

But while the MSCI World index on Tuesday hit its highest since April last year too, the MSCI Asia index continued to underperform.

Here are key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Wednesday:

– China central bank policy decision

– Japan trade (November)

– Australia leading indicators (November)