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Monday, March 4, 2024

Stocks end lower on expectations of new rate hike

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Philippine stocks finished lower Wednesday as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) hinted of another interest rate hike in November.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index dipped 10.11 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 6,253.96, while the broader all-shares index inched lost 1.82 points, or 0.05 percent, to settle at 3,384.45.

Regina Capital and Development Corp head of sales Luis Limlingan said the market edged lower ahead of the release of US inflation rate data coupled by the BSP’s statement not ruling out another 25-basis points rate hike next month.

The BSP raised interest rates by a total of 425 basis points to 6.25 percent to rein in inflation before pausing in the last four meetings.

Meanwhile, Asia extended a global markets rally Wednesday on a growing belief the Federal Reserve is finished with its interest rate hiking cycle, while optimism was also boosted by a report that China is considering a large burst of economic stimulus.

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While uncertainty caused by the Israel-Hamas crisis is keeping nerves on edge, the mood on trading floors has improved after a healthy US jobs report last week and dovish comments from a number of top US monetary policymakers.

On Wednesday, Atlanta Fed boss Raphael Bostic said rates were already tight enough to bring inflation back down to officials’ two percent target, echoing some of his counterparts, who see a spike in Treasury yields as tempering the need to lift borrowing costs further.

The remarks were welcomed by many traders who feared that a series of hit readings on the US economy in recent weeks was putting pressure on the bank to announce one more increase before the end of the year.

Data suggested there was a more-than-60-percent chance the Fed would stand pat in December, down from 60 percent for a hike seen just a week ago.

Eyes will now turn to the release of US inflation figures due later Wednesday and minutes from the Fed’s September policy meeting.

All three markets on Wall Street posted another day of gains thanks to the more risk-on environment, while the so-called fear gauge hit a two-week low.

“A steady stream of dovish messaging from the Fed is just what the rally doctor ordered,” said Stephen Innes at SPI Asset Management.

He added that with 10-year US Treasury yields nearly 25 basis points down from their pre-jobs data level “there is a growing sense we have seen peak rates, but significantly, investors are strongly coming around to the idea that the Fed has finally reached the end of its aggressive rate hike runway”.

In Asian trade Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Wellington, Mumbai, Bangkok, Taipei and Jakarta were all up.

Hong Kong piled on more than one percent and Shanghai was also enjoying a day in the sun after Bloomberg News reported that Chinese officials were looking at issuing almost $140 billion in sovereign debt to boost the beleaguered economy.

The cash would be spent on various projects in a bid to kickstart economic activity, which has been flat for most of the year, even after the lifting of draconian Covid containment rules at the end of 2022.

While not as big as the bazooka that was unveiled in 2008 during the financial crisis, the big-spending plan would provide a boost to investors who have been calling for more and wider support from the government after numerous targeted measures.

“The ad hoc issuance of additional debt from the central government could provide extra policy support and more resources to re-engineer a stronger and faster recovery,” Bruce Pang, at Jones Lang Lasalle, said.

“China’s recovery story could be a relay race” started by infrastructure investment that is then taken over by spending by businesses and consumers.

London rose in the morning but Paris and Frankfurt were down.

Oil prices edged up slightly as the market stabilized after Monday’s surge fueled by Hamas’s deadly attack on Israel that sparked fears of a wider conflict in the crude-rich Middle East.

There had been a worry that Iran could be dragged into the crisis after claims it was involved in the assault. However, Tehran has denied the charges and the United States said it had no direct evidence linking Iran to the violence. With AFP

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