Asian shares slip, bond yields rise as investors await ECB By Reuters


© Reuters. A man wearing a protective mask, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, walks past an electronic board displaying Shanghai Composite index, Nikkei index and Dow Jones Industrial Average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 7, 2022. REUTER

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Asian stocks fell, U.S. bond yields rose and a soaring dollar pushed to a two-decade high against the yen on Thursday as investors worried about the outlook for more rate rises ahead of a key meeting of the European Central Bank later in the day.

But before the meeting, at which the ECB is set to bring to an end its Asset Purchase Programme and signal rate hikes to combat rising inflation, moves in the Asian session were relatively muted as many investors kept to the sidelines.

“It’s classic pre-central-bank-meeting price action. To speculate now on anything other than an hourly timeframe, or an intraday timeframe, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at the moment,” said Matt Simpson, senior market analyst at City Index in Sydney.

“It’s the most exciting meeting since (Christine Lagarde) has been at the helm, since Draghi was here – ‘whatever it takes’.”

Adding to concern over European inflation, data showed the euro zone economy grew much faster in the first quarter than the previous three months, despite the war in Ukraine.

As investors guess at the size and pace of ECB tightening, they are also awaiting U.S. consumer price data on Friday that the White House has said it expects to be “elevated”. Economists expect annual inflation to be 8.3%, according to a Reuters poll.

While Asian share markets have risen around 8% from nearly two-year lows touched last month, investors remain worried that central bank policy tightening to control inflation could spark an economic slowdown.

In morning trade, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.39%, tracking losses in U.S. stocks in the previous session.

Australian shares were down 1.19% and Seoul’s slipped 0.64%, though Hong Kong’s eked out a gain of less than 0.2% and Chinese A-shares were flat.

In Japan, the stock index was also unchanged.

Overnight, the fell 0.81%, the lost 1.08% and the dropped 0.73%.

“Over the last two weeks, trading has been in a very narrow range and also based on very low volumes,” analysts at ING said in a note.

“Previous instances of this range trading on low volumes have usually preceded a sharp down-shift,” they cautioned, adding that the ECB meeting and Friday’s U.S. price data were likely “catalysts for a more bearish outlook.”

The wait for U.S. price data also weighed on U.S. Treasuries, which saw yields rise following a weak auction of 10-year notes on Wednesday.

The U.S. 10-year yield edged up on Thursday to 3.0548% from a U.S. close of 3.029% on Wednesday and the two-year yield, climbed to 2.8027% compared with a U.S. close of 2.774%.

Rising yields supported the dollar, particularly against the yen, which dropped to a 20-year low of 134.56. The Japanese currency has been weighed down by a widening policy divergence, with the Bank of Japan remaining one of the few global central banks to maintain a dovish stance. [FRX/]

The global was slightly higher at 102.6, and the euro was flat ahead of the ECB meeting at $1.0712.

Crude oil prices extended gains, rising to their highest levels in three months on hopes for strong U.S. demand and a recovery in China as COVID-19 curbs are eased.

Global benchmark was last at $123.83 per barrel, up 0.2% on the day. added 0.17% to $122.32.

Gold, sensitive to rate hikes but seen as an inflation edge, was weaker. lost 0.1% to %1,851.35 per ounce. [GOL/]

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