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Markets mixed as rate hopes play against China fears

AFP . Hong Kong
20 Jul 2023 14:22:31 | Update: 20 Jul 2023 14:22:31
Markets mixed as rate hopes play against China fears
— Representational Photo

Markets were mixed Thursday as hopes that central banks are close to ending their interest rate hikes were offset by worries about a lack of action by Chinese leaders to kickstart the country's stuttering economy.

The mood across trading floors has been generally positive of late, with last week's news that US inflation had slowed more than expected coming alongside healthy data suggesting a recession could also be avoided.

That was compounded by a surprisingly low UK inflation reading Wednesday.

The figures have fanned hopes that the long-running campaign of rate hikes was kicking in and policymakers in Washington and London could tap the brakes.

Comments from a top European Central Bank official this week indicated a similar outlook in Frankfurt.

The Fed is tipped to lift rates at its meeting next week but expectations are that it will stop after that, although there is still debate about whether it will announce another later in the year.

"With inflation easing and odds for a soft landing rising, investors may adopt an 'it could have been worse mood', so perhaps it's unlikely risk sentiment will drift too far askew," said Stephen Innes at SPI Asset Management.

He added that came "especially given the less hawkish implications the global inflation reset will have on central bank interest rates".

Wall Street provided a healthy lead as the Dow chalked up an eighth straight advance, though disappointing earnings from tech titans Netflix and Tesla after the market closed dented sentiment.

Asia began on the front foot but many markets lost momentum as the day went on.

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Bangkok and Wellington fell, though there were small gains in Sydney, Mumbai, Singapore, Manila and Jakarta.

London rose at the open but Paris and Frankfurt edged down.

Analysts remained cautious and warned the road ahead could still be bumpy for investors.

"The risk of recession has receded dramatically," Neil Dutta, at Renaissance Macro Research, told Bloomberg Television.

"I think the markets are right to allocate a little bit more to the soft-landing story, but I think you can make a good case that maybe we're getting a little bit over our skis here and we should probably put some more potential on the resurgence of the inflationary-boom scenario."

A lot of the unease on trading floors is centred on China's troubled economy, with the recovery from years of zero-Covid appearing to have shuddered to a halt, with the threat of deflation lingering.

A report earlier this week showed growth came in a lot lower than expected owing to a drop in consumer activity and following figures pointing to weak demand for the country's goods overseas.

And investors are growing anxious for Beijing to set measures to reinvigorate growth, with very little concrete coming out so far, apart from some small interest rate hikes and some pledges to aid the property sector.