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Marketmind: Peering past the policy peak

A look at the day ahead in Asian markets from Jamie McGeever, financial markets columnist.

A powerful rally in U.S. and global stocks on Thursday, sparked by another slump in bond yields as investors cheer what they increasingly believe is the end of the global rate-hiking cycle, paves the way for a strong end to the week in Asia on Friday.

There is a strong current of optimism surging through global markets that rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, Bank of England, European Central Bank and others are over.

If the Fed delivered a ‘dovish’ pause on Wednesday, the BoE delivered a ‘hawkish’ pause on Thursday. But the over-arching reaction across markets was the same – huge rallies in bonds, stocks and risk assets.

Investors are now looking to when the easing cycles start and how far they go. Around 70 to 75 basis points of Fed easing next year is priced into the U.S. curve, and almost 50 bps of expected rate cuts is reflected in the UK curve.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other policymakers around the world may insist that policy needs to remain restrictive and that rate cuts are simply not on the agenda, but markets have the bit between their teeth – the pivot is in place.

Bond yields slumped again on Thursday – the U.S. 10-year yield is down around 40 basis points from its peak above 5 per cent only a few days ago – the dollar fell. That’s music to emerging market ears.

Asian stocks jumped 1.7 per cent for their best day since July. Given the strength of the rally on Wall Street and around the world later in the day, few would bet against another strong rise on Friday.

The S&P 500 chalked up its best day in six months, also boosted by strong corporate earnings and guidance – Apple reported forecast-beating quarterly sales and profit, although shares fell slightly in after hours trade.

The three main Wall Street indexes are well on course to register their best week of the year, all eyeing weekly gains of around 5 per cent.

Japan’s Nikkei followed Wednesday’s 2.4 per cent leap with a 1.1 per cent spike on Thursday. Although the yen rebounded a bit Thursday, it is still below 150 per dollar near last year’s 33-year low and is languishing at its lowest level in over half a century on a real effective exchange rate basis.

Chinese markets, however, remain the outliers. Official and unofficial figures this week showed manufacturing sector activity unexpectedly shrank in October, dampening the optimism that had built up after the strong third quarter GDP data.

If the Caixin non-manufacturing purchasing managers report on Friday signals contraction in services – September’s 50.2 showed slender growth – Chinese stocks could buck the global trend and close lower on the day and the week.

Here are key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Friday:

– China, India services PMI (October)

– Australia manufacturing, services PMIs (October)

– Fed’s Barr, Barkin, Kashkari speak

(By Jamie McGeever; Editing by Josie Kao)

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