Stocks Plummet, US Yields Surge, Dollar Gains Momentum as Federal Reserve Adopts Hawkish Stance
Asia-Pacific shares followed the downward trend set by Wall Street on Thursday, as investors interpreted the latest policy statements from the US Federal Reserve as a signal of higher and longer interest rates.
The broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan, MSCI’s (.MIAPJ0000PUS), was down 0.4% in early afternoon Hong Kong time. Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) slid 0.6%, China’s blue-chip (.CSI300) dipped 0.6%, and Hong Kong’s benchmark shed 1.3%.
The yield on two-year US Treasury notes rose to a 17-year high of 5.1970% on Thursday morning and hovered around 5.18% by early afternoon.
Similarly, Japan’s 10-year government bond yield reached its highest level in a decade, in line with the US 10-year Treasury yields, which hit a 16-year peak at 4.4310%.
“We anticipate further increases in bond yields in the near future due to the Federal Reserve’s hawkish position,” said Tai Hui, APAC chief market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. He added that while high interest rates can cool the economy, they remain positive on long-term government bonds, investment grade corporate debt, as well as growth and tech stocks.
Ben Luk, senior multi-asset strategist at State Street Global Markets, noted that the overall tone of the Fed’s latest meeting was not excessively hawkish but there were two surprises. The forecasts for 2024 were slightly higher than expected, and Fed statements indicated that macroeconomic growth would hold up despite higher rates.
The US central bank held interest rates steady on Wednesday and projected an increase by the end of the year, stating that monetary policy will likely be much tighter through 2024 than previously estimated. The median forecast for the federal funds rate at the end of the year is now 5.1%, compared to the 4.6% estimated in June.
The upward revisions to rate forecasts prompted a rebound in the US dollar, pushed US Treasury yields to multi-year highs, flattened the yield curve, and caused stocks to tumble.
The dollar index, which measures the currency against a basket of rivals, reached its highest level since March 9 at 105.59 on Thursday, bringing the yen close to its weakest point since November. The pound fell to fresh multi-month lows following an inflation report on Wednesday, raising questions about whether the Bank of England will also hold rates.
Major stock futures in Asia experienced fluctuations in early afternoon trading. US stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, were down 0.3%. Similarly, the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures, German DAX futures, and FTSE futures all declined by approximately 1%.
Investors are now closely watching monetary policy decisions from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan on Thursday, while the Bank of England’s decision will also provide guidance to Asian markets.
Oil prices fell in Asian trade following the largest decline in a month in the previous session. US crude dropped 0.72% to $89.01 a barrel, and Brent crude fell to $92.87 per barrel.
Gold remained slightly lower, with spot gold trading at $1,927.96 an ounce.