Monday, May 16, 2022

Asian traders take breather, Hong Kong slips after huge surge

Global stocks have enjoyed a massive bounce in recent days thanks to optimism over peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv and after Beijing's signal that it was ready to shore up markets and ease off its tech crackdown.

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Asian equities were mixed Friday as investors took a breather from a strong rally, with Hong Kong giving up some of the colossal gains fuelled by China’s support pledge, while unease over the Ukraine war helped oil extend a recovery.

After a painful start to the week, global stocks have enjoyed a massive bounce in the past few days thanks to optimism over peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv and after Beijing’s signal that it was ready to shore up markets and ease off its tech crackdown.

And while the Federal Reserve announced the first of what many think will be seven interest rate hikes this year, traders have largely accounted for a period of tighter monetary policy.

Focus remains on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its impact on the global economy as surging commodity prices ramp up expectations for ever-higher inflation, which was already at a 40-year high in the US.

Talks between Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will be closely followed, with the White House looking to get Beijing onside in trying to bring an end to the conflict.

That comes as Russia appeared to play down reports of progress in talks with Ukraine on a ceasefire, while the Pentagon warned that Vladimir Putin could threaten to use nuclear weapons if the conflict continues to drag on.

On equity markets, Asia was unable to build on the previous two day’s surge.

Hong Kong dropped more than one percent, having clocked up a mammoth 16% on Wednesday and Thursday after China’s top economic official vowed measures to support beaten-down markets and indicated a regulatory drive against the tech sector was nearing its end.

A gauge of tech firms in Hong Kong also fell after seeing breakneck gains.

There were also losses in Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta, though Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney and Wellington were in positive territory.

But while the extreme volatility that has characterised markets since Russia’s invasion three weeks ago has died down for now, commentators remain cautious.

“I don’t necessarily expect the rest of the year to be that easy,” Lori Calvasina, of RBC Capital Markets LLC, told Bloomberg Television.

“Volatility is likely to stay elevated for quite some time” even as sentiment gauges “have been a screaming buy in some respects for quite some time”.

The uncertainty over Ukraine, and reports that some lockdown measures in Chinese tech hub Shenzhen – which helped fuel a markets selloff earlier this week – were being eased early, has helped push oil prices back up above US$100.

And Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said the commodity would probably remain elevated.

“Market internals suggest that oil’s downside remains sticky even when Ukraine and Russia are inching towards peace,” he said in a note. “So there is a genuine belief that even if the war does end, sanctions on Russia will likely persist, making oil supplies tougher to source for longer.

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