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Asian stocks retreat, Nikkei falters as sticky inflation fuels BOJ jitters

Published 27/02/2024, 01:48 pm
Updated 27/02/2024, 01:48 pm
© Reuters.

Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks retreated on Tuesday as caution persisted before a string of key economic readings this week, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 falling from record highs after a slightly stronger-than-expected inflation print. 

Regional markets took weak cues from a middling overnight close on Wall Street, as a tech-fueled rally to record highs now appeared to be cooling. US futures were muted in Asian trade on Tuesday.

Nikkei comes off record highs as sticky inflation spooks investors 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index traded marginally lower, retreating sharply from record highs hit earlier in the day as consumer price index data for January fell slightly less than expected.

While the reading still eased from the prior month, it factored into fears that the Bank of Japan will have more impetus to end its yield curve control and negative interest rate policies by as soon as April. 

An ultra-dovish BOJ was a key point of support for Japanese markets over the past year, as rising interest rates across the rest of the world, and a weakened yen, saw foreign investors flock into local stocks.

But the sharp spike in valuation also makes Japanese stocks particularly vulnerable to any bad news. Japan’s economy is also grappling with an unexpected recession. 

Still, the broader TOPIX index rose 0.7% and hit a record high. 

Broader Asian markets retreated before a string of key inflation and business activity readings this week. Australia’s ASX 200 index fell 0.3%, with focus turning to a monthly inflation reading for January, due on Wednesday.

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South Korea’s KOSPI fell 0.5%, extending losses into a second straight session as investors locked-in profits in heavyweight technology stocks.

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a mildly weak open, in line with its Asian peers, as the index also saw extended profit-taking after hitting record highs last week.

Broader sentiment was also quashed by anticipation of U.S. PCE price index data later this week. The reading is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, and is widely expected to factor into the outlook for U.S. rates- which have been a key point of contention for Asian markets.

China rebound stalls, PMIs awaited 

China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes moved in a flat-to-low range on Tuesday, remaining skittish after cutting short an eight-session rally in the prior session.

Losses in mainland and tech stocks also dragged Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index 1% lower.

While more stimulus measures from Beijing helped Chinese markets rebound from multi-year lows, markets were now awaiting signs of actual improvement in the economy. 

Purchasing managers index data for February is due later this week and is expected to offer clearer signs on Asia’s biggest economy. 

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