NEW DELHI: Asian stocks hit a two-year low on Friday and were heading for a weekly loss, while the dollar was set for its third week of gains as a fresh slew of rate hikes around the world deepened worry about the outlook for global economic growth.
Although wagers on a 100 basis point hike from the U.S. Federal Reserve later this month eased off a little overnight as Fed officials hosed down that possibility, bond markets remain priced for steep hikes to slam the brakes on output. Adding to those broad global growth concerns, China released second quarter economic data on Friday showing growth was slower than expected and the property sector had severe funding stresses, with retail sales being the only bright spot as major cities were locked down to contain COVID-19.
MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.5% in early trade to a two-year low, dragged down by concerns about China's property market where homeowner threats to cease mortgage payments have spooked markets. China's main share index was marginally higher, while a Hong Kong-listed index of mainland stocks fell more than 2%.
Japan's Nikkei edged 0.1% lower. The U.S. dollar stood near two-decade highs on the euro and yen, having forced the euro below $1 for the first time since 2002 this week. Overnight, Wall Street indexes fell after weaker-than-expected earnings from JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley fanned fears of a sharp economic downturn.
The S&P 500 finished 0.3% lower but futures were up 0.35% in Asia after Fed Governor Christopher Waller and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard poured some cold water on talk of a 100 bp rate hikes later in July. "Markets may have gotten ahead of themselves," Waller said at a summit in Idaho. Bullard also told Japan's Nikkei newspaper that a 75 bp hike "has a lot of virtue to it."
Futures imply about a 30% chance of a 100 bp hike and see the benchmark U.S. interest rate reaching about 3.6% by March next year before being cut back to 3% by late 2023. HIKES
This week the Bank of Canada surprised markets with a 100 bp hike, central banks in South Korea and New Zealand announced 50 bp hikes and in Singapore and the Philippines authorities tightened policy out-of-cycle to tamp down on inflation. U.S. retail sales data will also be closely watched data point on Friday.
Weakness will further worry investors who think this week's white-hot inflation figure and subsequent Thursday data showing a strong rise in producer prices point to an unleashing of steep rate rises on a softening economy. Short-end U.S. Treasuries held steady overnight, but the two-year yield, at 3.1217%, is about 17 basis points higher than the benchmark 10-year yield, an unusual inversion of the yield curve that often points to recession.
"That inversion, I think, has quite a long way to go because we haven't really properly priced in that recession yet," said ING economist Rob Carnell, who also warned equities were at risk as fast-rising producer costs point to margin squeezes. In currency markets the U.S. dollar is king. The euro fell as low as $0.9952 overnight and has slid 1.5% for the week. It last steadied at $1.0030. The yen is hurtling toward 140 per dollar, and last bought 138.85.
"Not only has the greenback been supported by an almost continual ratcheting higher of Fed hawkishness over the past year, but the USD is picking up support from safe-haven flows. This reflects concerns that China will struggle to meet its growth targets this year at a time when the market is concerned about recession risks for Europe and the U.S."
Brent crude futures held at $99.42 a barrel and gold sat at $1,711 an ounce, just above a one-year low made overnight.