Hong Kong, China—Expectations that US interest rates will stay ultra low for as long as needed helped lift most Asian equities on Friday but Tokyo tumbled on reports that Japan’s prime minister was set to resign for health reasons.
Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell said it would be in no rush to reel in inflation, even if it overshoots the central bank’s two percent target, instead opting for an average that took into account periods of weak price rises.
Powell said policymakers would stick with the new framework “for some time,” indicating that the era of cheap borrowing is here for the foreseeable future.
He also said the Fed would now work towards a goal of “maximum employment” as its policy of achieving low unemployment had failed to spur inflation, adding that the bank was prepared to use “our full range of tools to support the economy.”
While the move had been widely expected, the news was welcomed in New York with the Dow ending within a whisker of wiping out its 2020 losses, while the S&P 500 notched a fifth straight record.
The speech overshadowed news that US jobless claims came in higher than expected last week.
“In the absence of fresh positive economic news recently, this statement should cheer investor sentiment,” said JP Morgan Asset Management analyst Tai Hui.
“Monetary policy is likely to stay accommodative for even longer. Not only will the Fed need to provide sufficient support to help the economy through the pandemic fallout, but also policy rates should be kept low beyond that to generate sufficient inflationary pressure.
“The search for income for Asian investors will continue—this should be supportive of risk assets such as equities, corporate bonds and emerging-market fixed-income.”
However, Stephen Innes of AxiCorp said there was some disappointment.
“First, the average inflation-targeting framework remains vague and unspecific. Second, Powell gave no hints on how the statement change would translate into concrete policy action,” he said in a note.
“The question now is what the September 16 (policy board) meeting will bring.”
Shanghai and Singapore rose more than one percent while Hong Kong added 0.6 percent, Mumbai jumped 0.8 percent and Seoul put on 0.4 percent with Jakarta and Bangkok also higher.
Wellington edged up as it reopened after being hit early on by a cyberattack for a fourth straight day.
Officials at the New Zealand Exchange said they were investigating after Thursday’s trading was called off soon after opening.
The dollar was sharply down across the board.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 initially dropped more than two percent in response to reports Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, planned to step down over health issues. It ended down 1.4 percent.
The news also sent the yen, a safe haven in times of uncertainty, surging briefly to 105.61 against the dollar, from 106.74.
The Japanese leader later confirmed his resignation at a press conference, saying he was suffering from a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that ended his first term in office.