Fundamental Comment

Asian shares drop on Powell’s optimism, weak data

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Asian shares tumbled on Wednesday as optimism from the new head of the Federal Reserve raised forecasts of quicker monetary tightening.

Japan Nikkei 225 index closed 1.44% lower to 22,068.24 as the yen firmed to 106.99 against the U.S. dollar.

Also, data released today showed Japan’s industrial output fell 6.6 percent in January, marking the biggest fall since March 2011.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index ended 0.99 percent down to 3,259, while Hang Seng index has so far shaved 1.55 percent to 30,784.42.

China’s manufacturing PMI slowed growth to 50.3 in February, the lowest level in more than 1-1/2 years, from 51.3 in January.

Testimony by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell before Congress on Tuesday reflected the new Chair’s optimism about the world’s biggest economy, raising speculations the Fed could become more aggressive on rate hikes this year.

Meanwhile, there are frictions between market participants whether the Fed would raise the borrowing cost three or four times in 2018.  

Later in the day, U.S. GDP second reading may signal a downside revision to 2.5 percent (annualized) in the fourth quarter from an initial of 2.6 percent.

The dollar index gained 0.7 percent overnight, while currently trading slightly lower at 90.31.

U.S. 10-year Treasury yield edged down 0.12 percent to 2.904 after climbing to a top of 2.925 on Tuesday.

South Korea’s Kospi index dropped 1.17 percent to 2,427.36 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 retreated 0.68 percent to 6,016.00.

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