Asian markets rally on Fed growth, rate outlook

Published on Mar 18, 2021 02:21 PM IST

With growth already expected to burst higher this year, huge stimulus spending kicking in and vaccines being rolled out, investors have in recent weeks grown worried about a surge in inflation that could force the central bank to reconsider its dovish stance.

A passerby watches an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo. Asian stock markets tumbled amid fears the US may be heading back into recession and Europe's debt crisis is worsening. The sell-off follows the biggest one-day points decline on Wall Street since the 2008 financial crisis.
A passerby watches an electronic stock indicator in Tokyo. Asian stock markets tumbled amid fears the US may be heading back into recession and Europe's debt crisis is worsening. The sell-off follows the biggest one-day points decline on Wall Street since the 2008 financial crisis.
AFP | | Posted by Harshit Sabarwal

Equities rallied in Asia on Thursday after the Federal Reserve ramped up its outlook for the US economy but reiterated its pledge to maintain its ultra-loose market-friendly monetary policies for as long as needed.

With growth already expected to burst higher this year, huge stimulus spending kicking in and vaccines being rolled out, investors have in recent weeks grown worried about a surge in inflation that could force the central bank to reconsider its dovish stance.

But the Fed's decision after its latest board meeting was music to the ears of traders.

Policymakers forecast the world's top economy to expand 6.5 percent this year, two percentage points above its earlier projection, thanks to trillions of dollars in government spending and the expected easing of lockdown measures that will allow people to get back to their daily lives.

And, crucially, they continued to pledge that the record low interest rates that have been a key pillar of the year-long markets rally will not be touched for the foreseeable future.

Bank boss Jerome Powell told a news conference that while the recovery had been faster than expected, "the economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals, and it is likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved".

The Fed "will continue to provide the economy the support it needs for as long as it takes", he said.

And while some board members were edging towards a rate hike by 2023, investors were cheered by projections that borrowing costs will likely stay where they are until possibly 2024, even if inflation surges.

'Up, up and away'

"The overarching message from the Summary of Economic Projections and Chair Powell's press conference was of greater optimism on the outlook but a central bank that is not in a hurry to raise rates," said Axi strategist Stephen Innes.

And Tai Hui, at JP Morgan Asset Management, said the Fed justified its decision to maintain its policy position by saying the impact of Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion will be felt this year and the economy would revert to normal from 2022.

"It remains to be seen if this will be enough to convince investors with more hawkish inflation expectations, who may be fretting about a sustained rise in consumer prices," he added.

"The market reaction suggests investors are satisfied with the Fed's explanations for now. Inflation is expected to rise in the coming months, and the Fed may need to provide more handholding to the market during this price spike."

Wall Street rallied on the news, with the Dow ending above 33,000 for the first time, while the S&P 500 also chalked up a record.

Asian trading floors were also upbeat. Hong Kong jumped 1.3 percent and Tokyo put on one percent, while Singapore and Jakarta put on more than one percent.

Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei, Manila and Bangkok also rose, while London, Paris and Frankfurt joined in the rally as they opened.

"It looks like up, up and away from here" for equities, Mahjabeen Zaman, a senior investment specialist at Citigroup Australia, told Bloomberg TV.

The Bank of England's next policy meeting is up next, with investors expecting it to also maintain the status quo, with the country's economy getting a boost from good progress in the government's vaccination drive, which has brightened the outlook.

Key figures around 0820 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.0 percent at 30,216.75 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.3 percent at 29,405.72 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,463.07 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 6,774.10

Euro/dollar - DOWN at $1.1947 from $1.1981 at 2045 GMT

Pound/dollar - DOWN at $1.3955 from $1.3970

Euro/pound - DOWN at 85.61 pence from 85.77 pence

Dollar/yen - UP at 109.24 yen from 108.82 yen

West Texas Intermediate - DOWN 0.8 percent at $64.08 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude - DOWN 0.9 percent at $67.41 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.6 percent at 33,015.37 (close)


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