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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Stocks briefly breach 7,000 but finish lower

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Philippine stocks fell Tuesday after briefly trading above the 7,000 level as interest rate cuts optimism faded.

The 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange index opened at 7,016.93, before closing at 6,960.43 Tuesday, down 19.38 points or 0.28 percent. The broader all-shares index ended at 3,626.71, also down by 9.69 points or 0.27 percent.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. head economist Michael Ricafort said the local gauge corrected after gaining for three straight trading days after the US markets corrected slightly lower from new record highs.

Ricafort said investor sentiment turned negative as stronger-than-expected US ISM manufacturing data could also reduce the urgency for the US Federal Reserve to cut rates.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong stocks rallied Tuesday as traders returned from an extended weekend break to forecast-beating Chinese factory data that lifted hopes for the world’s number-two economy, though other Asian markets were mixed.

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A stronger-than-expected reading on US manufacturing and prices paid kept sentiment in check and sparked questions about the Federal Reserve’s timeline for cutting interest rates.

Focus is now turning to the release of US jobs figures at the end of the week, which could have a bearing on the central bank’s decision-making in light of a recent batch of above-par inflation readings.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was the standout, piling on more than two percent on the first day of trading since Thursday as investors cheered data showing China’s manufacturing grew more than forecast last month.

The news suggested the economy may have turned a corner after struggling for more than a year since the lifting of zero-Covid measures, though observers are still hoping for more stimulus measures and support for the troubled property sector.

Chinese consumer tech giant Xiaomi led gains in Hong Kong, soaring as much as 15 percent at one point on news that orders for its first electric vehicle — launched in Beijing on Thursday — had topped estimates. It ended nine percent higher.

The firm got close to 90,000 orders for the SU7 within 24 hours of the launch, Bloomberg News reported, adding that some had predicted it could become as popular as Tesla’s Model 3 EV.

Other Asian markets were mixed.

Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore and Taipei stayed in positive territory but Shanghai, Sydney, Wellington, Manila, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta slipped.

London, Frankfurt and Paris all rose in morning trade.

Wall Street’s three main indexes ended Monday mixed after the Institute for Supply Management’s gauge of factory activity showed expansion for the first time in March, after 16 straight months of contraction.

But more concerning for investors were figures showing that prices paid hit their highest mark since July 2022, which fanned worries that inflation could start to creep back up and complicate the Fed’s plans to cut rates.

Markets are now pricing in about 65 basis points of cuts this year, lower than the Fed’s guidance of 75 points.

US Treasury yields jumped the data, putting upward pressure on the dollar.

The news came after the closely watched personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index ticked up, which Fed chief Jerome Powell said was “pretty much in line with our expectations”.

Jose Torres at Interactive Brokers said: “Investors are indeed front-running the possibility of yet another hawkish pivot from the Fed.

“The Fed’s first rate cut may arrive in the second half of the year after all — with probabilities of a reduction this June inching closer to coin-flip odds.”

Gold was hovering around $2,250, having edged back from a record $2,265.73 on Monday that was sparked by central bank hints at an easing of credit conditions.

Demand for the safe haven has also been driven by geopolitical tensions, particularly in Europe and the Middle East.

Oil prices extended Monday’s gains, fueled by worries over supplies and Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Claims that Israeli air strikes destroyed the Iranian embassy’s consular annex in Damascus — killing seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard including a top commander — sparked fresh fears.

Israel said it would not comment, but Iranian officials vowed a stiff response, with fears of even further violence between Israel and Iran’s allies.

“Oil prices are edging close to five-month highs as geopolitical tensions remain rampant and supply threat is now a key focus as Iran (starts) to get involved in the Mideast crisis,” said Saxo’s Redmond Wong.

He added that plans by Mexico to halt some exports were also playing on investors’ fears, while an OPEC meeting this week will be closely followed. With AFP

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