Marketmind: Fed pivot begins to crystallize

By Jamie McGeever

(Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in Asian markets from Jamie McGeever, financial markets columnist.

A slump in U.S. bond yields, after another Federal Reserve official signaled that the central bank’s interest rate-hiking cycle is over, will put Asian markets on a positive footing on Wednesday, despite renewed stress in China’s property sector.

Investors in the region also have key Japanese business activity indicators and South Korean current account figures on their plate on Wednesday, and there will no doubt be headlines coming from the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Morocco.

But Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic’s remarks, that he believes the Fed has finished raising rates, will help Asian markets pick up on Wednesday from where global markets left off on Tuesday.

“I actually don’t think we need to increase rates anymore,” said Bostic, following the dovish path set by two Fed colleagues on Monday. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari on Tuesday also struck a similar tone, leading investors to think that the Fed ‘pivot’ is underway.

This doesn’t mean rates will necessarily be cut any time soon, but it helps take further hikes off the table. All else equal this should lower the dollar and U.S. yields, boost risk appetite, and lift Asian and emerging markets.

The turnaround in sentiment also coincides with a slide in oil prices and diminishing flight to safety on Tuesday. The immediate ‘risk-off’ impact on financial markets of the violence in Israel and Gaza appears to be fading – gold slipped too.

The main event on the Asian economic data calendar is the latest monthly release of Japan’s ‘tankan’ indexes, the closely-watched central bank surveys of manufacturing and service sector business activity.

The International Monetary Fund published its latest global growth forecasts on Tuesday, and among the highlights were the downward revisions to China’s GDP growth outlook, to 5.0% in 2023 and 4.2% in 2024.

IMF chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas said “forceful action” was needed to clean up China’s real estate sector and while authorities had taken some steps, more work was needed.

The sector suffered another blow on Tuesday after Country Garden warned about its inability to meet offshore debt obligations. This could add China’s largest private lender to a growing list of developers that have defaulted and set the stage for one of the country’s biggest debt restructurings.

Chinese stocks fell on Tuesday for the third session in a row, and have now fallen 16 out of the last 20. The Hang Seng Chinese A property index has only risen three sessions out of the last 18.

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

– IMF, World Bank meetings in Marrakech, Morocco

– Fed’s Bowman, Bostic, Waller, Collins all speak

– Japan ‘tankan’ survey (October)

(By Jamie McGeever; Editing by Josie Kao)