Morning Chronicle - Asian markets mostly rise but inflation data, Fed plans in focus

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Asian markets mostly rise but inflation data, Fed plans in focus
Asian markets mostly rise but inflation data, Fed plans in focus

Asian markets mostly rise but inflation data, Fed plans in focus

Asian markets mostly rose Tuesday as investors await key US inflation data later in the week, though the volatility that has characterised the year so far is expected to continue as central banks bring an end to the era of cheap cash.

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After a slow start to the week, the region shifted higher in early trade thanks to bargain-buying and following Friday's bigger-than-expected surge in US jobs for January, which reassured on the state of the economic recovery.

But the big event is the inflation reading -- to be announced on Thursday -- that is tipped to see another painful rise in prices for last month, having come in at a four-decade high in December.

The spike has forced central banks around the world to wind back the ultra-loose monetary policies put in place two years ago to guard against the economic impact of Covid and while many have lifted rates already, all eyes are on the Fed's first move in March.

While US finance chiefs have not given a timetable for their increases, speculation is swirling over how many it will announce this year -- with forecasts ranging from three to seven -- and by how much.

That uncertainty has weighed on global markets this year and commentators have warned further ructions are to be expected.

However, a feeling that recent selling may have been overdone has attracted some investors back into the fray.

"Markets will get used to the tightening regime at some point," Chris Iggo, chief investment officer for core investments at AXA Investment Managers, wrote in a note.

"The growth and earnings forecast revisions in the next few months will be key."

On Tuesday, Tokyo was in positive territory helped by news that the United States will ease tariffs on steel imported from Japan that were imposed by Donald Trump, while Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta were also up.

But Hong Kong dropped more than one percent with already-troubled Alibaba under pressure from reports that major shareholder SoftBank was planning to offload at least a part of its huge stake in the firm.

Shanghai was also down.

Traders are also keeping a close eye on events on the Ukraine border as Russia masses troops, with Western nations warning it is planning an invasion.

The threat of a war has kept upward pressure on oil prices in recent weeks, though the main driver has been expectations for a surge in demand owing to economic reopenings, tight supplies and a cold snap in the United States.

And OANDA's Edward Moya said signs of progress in US-Iran nuclear talks -- which could see Tehran sell internationally again -- would likely not have much long-term impact on the rally towards $100 a barrel.

"Energy traders locked in some profits over optimism that the US and Iran might be able to salvage a nuclear deal," he said in a note.

"A quick revival of the Iran nuclear deal still seems unlikely, so any relief from additional barrels of crude from Iran should not be priced in. The oil market still remains heavily in deficit and whatever weakness happens to prices will likely be short-lived."

Both main contracts were slightly down Tuesday but remain locked around highs not seen since 2014.

- Key figures around 0300 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 27,365.46 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.1 percent at 24,319.21

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,412.41

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1430 from $1.1440 late Monday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3535 from $1.3532

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.46 pence from 84.51 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 115.37 from 115.10 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.1 percent at $91.27 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $92.50 per barrel

New York - Dow: FLAT at 35,091.13 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.8 percent at 7,573.47 (close)