Asian stocks slide on Fed rate comments, US dollar firms

A man looking at an electric quotation board displaying the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on Aug 26, 2016.
A man looking at an electric quotation board displaying the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on Aug 26, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - Most Asian share markets slipped on Monday (Aug 29) while the US dollar held firm after US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen indicated an interest rate increase remains on the cards for this year.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 0.7 percent.

Japan's Nikkei, bucked the trend and climbed 2.2 per cent as the yen weakened against the resurgent dollar.

The case for a rate hike has strengthened in recent months, with a lot of new jobs being created, and economic growth is looking likely to continue at a moderate pace, Ms Yellen said in a speech at the Fed's annual monetary policy conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday.

While Ms Yellen did not give guidance on what the central bank needs to see before raising rates, she said the Fed already thinks it is close to meeting its goals of maximum employment and stable prices. She described consumer spending as "solid" but noted that business investment was weak and exports hurt by a strong dollar.

Comments by the Fed's No. 2 policymaker, vice chair Stanley Fischer, following Ms Yellen's speech also bolstered the case for a hike this year.

Asked on CNBC whether a rate hike in September and more than one policy tightening before year end should be expected, Mr Fischer said Ms Yellen's comments were "consistent with answering yes" to both questions, albeit still data-dependent.

Traders remained cautious, however. The odds of a hike in September rose to 30 per cent following the comments from 21 per cent on Thursday, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool. Traders were pricing in a 60.2 per cent chance of a hike in December, up from 51.8 per cent on Thursday.

"While the move towards another Fed rate hike will likely cause bouts of consternation in investment markets I don't see the same degree of uncertainty that we saw around last year's Fed rate hike," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney, wrote in a note.

"It's clear from the Fed's actions this year that it is aware of global risks, the impact of its own actions on those risks and any potential blow back to the US economy and of the impact of a rising US dollar in doing some of its work for it."

The comments from Ms Yellen and Mr Fischer dragged Wall Street lower at the close.

But they proved a boon for the US currency, with the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six global peers, jumping 0.8 per cent on Friday. It held steady at 95.561 in early trading on Monday.

The dollar surged 1.3 per cent against the yen on Friday to a two-week high, its biggest one-day advance in almost seven weeks. It extended those gains by 0.1 per cent to 101.99 yen early on Monday.

The euro was little changed at US$1.1194 after tumbling 0.8 per cent on Friday, its biggest one-day slide since July 15.

In commodities, the rally in the dollar drove crude lower. US crude futures fell 0.9 per cent to US$47.22 in early Asian trade.

Investors will be looking to Japan household spending and retail sales on Tuesday, global factory activity readings on Thursday and the US non-farm payrolls report on Friday.