Markets mixed after US inflation data, China figures give boost

HONG KONG  -  Asian markets were mixed Monday after data showed a slight uptick in US inflation but Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell said the reading was “in line with ex­pectations”. Traders were also cheered by a big jump in Chinese factory activity that fuelled hopes that the world’s number two economy may have bottomed out.

The advances came after the Dow and S&P 500 end­ed at records Thursday, with the latter chalking up its best first quarter since 2019. Long-awaited figures on the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index -- the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation -- showed a small on-year rise in March compared with February, though the core reading eased slightly. Powell said the report “is pretty much in line with our expecta­tions” and decision-makers were on track to hit their long-term inflation target of two percent. He said that while the recent inflation data was higher than the Fed would have liked, the February figures were “definite­ly more along the lines of what we want to see”. The data appeared to have little impact on traders’ expec­tations for a June interest rate cut but Powell warned they were unlikely to fall to the levels seen after the 2008 global financial crisis. Friday’s news followed a surprise upward revision Thursday to fourth-quarter US economic growth that some observers said could complicate the Fed’s plans to cut borrowing costs.

In early Asian trade Seoul, Singapore, Manila rose, while there were losses in Taipei and Jakarta. Hong Kong, Sydney and Wellington were still closed for Eas­ter. Shanghai jumped around one percent as traders welcomed news that China’s manufacturing grew for the first time in half a year, giving a boost to leaders as they battle to kickstart the struggling economy. The 50.8 reading in March was the first showing expansion since September and was well above forecasts.

“The industrial sector seems to be resilient, partly helped by strong exports,” said Zhang Zhiwei at Pin­point Asset Management. “If fiscal spending rises and exports remain strong, the economic momentum may improve.” But Tokyo sank more than one percent as the Bank of Japan’s closely watched Tankan survey showed confidence among Japan’s largest manufac­turers slipped in the first quarter, having risen for three straight quarters. The yen strengthened slightly, having stabilised at the end of last week after hitting a 34-year low against the dollar on Wednesday.

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