Asian stocks surge on smaller rate hike bets, China COVID pivot

  • Stock Market News
Asian stocks surge on smaller rate hike bets, China COVID pivot
Credit: © Reuters.

By Ambar Warrick Most Asian stock markets rallied on Friday after softer-than-expected U.S. inflation data posited a slightly less hawkish outlook for interest rates, while China's withdrawal of some COVID-related curbs drove outsized gains in local markets.

Chinese authorities on Friday shortened quarantine times for residents and inbound travelers, and scrapped a penalty on airlines that bring in infected passengers.

While the government still maintained stricter COVID measures, as the country faces its worst outbreak since May, it also stressed on the need to minimize the economic impact of its strict zero-COVID policy.

China's blue-chip Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 index jumped 3.4%, while the Shanghai Composite index added 2.4%.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was the best performer in Asia on Friday, rallying more than 7% after the government also said it will loosen COVID-related movement curbs for residents and international travelers.

Chinese stocks have surged in recent weeks as rumors on social media flagged a potential change in the government's stance towards zero-COVID. The policy ground Chinese economic growth to a halt this year and severely dented investor sentiment toward the country, damaging its markets.

Broader Asian stocks rallied, with technology-heavy bourses gaining the most as softer-than-expected U.S. inflation data drummed up expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates at a slower pace in the coming months.

The Taiwan Weighted index surged 3.7%, also benefiting from hopes of a reopening in China, while South Korea’s KOSPI index added 3.4%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index also rose 3%, while India’s blue-chip Nifty 50 index rose 1.6%.

Markets are now pricing in an over 80% possibility that the Fed will hike rates by a relatively smaller 50 basis points in December, amid signs that its steep rate rises this year are bearing fruit.

This notion was furthered by a slew of Fed members this week, who said they supported smaller interest rate hikes to protect economic growth. But given that U.S. inflation is still well above the Fed’s 2% annual target, the central bank is expected to keep raising interest rates until it sees clearer signs that inflation is easing.

Still, most risk-driven markets rallied on the prospect of a slower ascent in interest rates, given that rising rates were the biggest weight on risk-driven markets this year. Wall Street indexes also rallied overnight, with technology stocks leading gains.

Among Antipodean markets, Australia’s ASX 200 index jumped 2.8%, with heavyweight mining stocks benefiting the most from hopes of a reopening in China, their biggest market.

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