HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets rallied on Friday (July 19) as comments from a top Federal Reserve official were pounced on by investors as indicating the US central bank will unveil a deep interest rate cut at the end of the month.
Mr John Williams, the influential vice-chairman of the Fed’s policy-setting board, said in a speech that central banks should move quickly to support the economy when borrowing costs were already low.
He pointed to studies suggesting that when there are few stimulus options available, officials should “move more quickly than you otherwise might” rather than wait “for disaster to unfold”.
While a spokesman later clarified that Mr Williams was not outlining Fed policy and was not flagging a half-point cut, analysts said the remarks provided an insight into how officials were thinking.
Markets have been wavering this week over how big the Fed’s expected reduction would be, with 25 basis points priced in but traders hoping for 50 basis points.
“Williams’ remarks put probabilities of multiple rate cuts higher after strong economic indicators had put doubts on the number of rate reductions this year and how deep the cut will be,” said Oanda senior market analyst Alfonso Esparza.
Wall Street ended in positive territory and Asia was on course to end the week on a strong note, despite concerns about the global outlook and a lack of progress in China-US trade talks.
Tokyo went into the break 1.7 per cent higher, while Hong Kong and Shanghai were both up 1 per cent in early business.
Seoul and Taipei also added 1 per cent, while Sydney climbed 0.8 per cent, Singapore put on 0.4 per cent, Wellington added 0.3 per cent and Manila advanced 0.6 per cent.
WARNING FOR STOCKS
However, Mr Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab & Co, warned that weakness in the world economy would eventually drag on markets.
“I don’t think a few rate cuts are going to make the difference, whether it’s 25 or 50 basis points, at the end of this month,” he told Bloomberg TV. “While the bond market is pricing in a realistic probability of the slowdown, stocks have gone the other direction this year and may be in for a surprise.”
Bets on lower rates were also providing support to higher-yielding, riskier currencies with the Australian dollar and South Korean won climbing 0.6 per cent and the Indonesian rupiah 0.5 per cent higher. South Africa’s rand, the Turkish lira and Mexican peso were also well up.
However, the greenback did claw back slightly against its major peers following steep losses on Thursday.
The softer dollar was also helping oil prices rally, while President Donald Trump’s claims that the US had shot down an Iranian drone which threatened an American naval vessel also provided strong support.
However, Vanguard Markets’ Mr Stephen Innes said the commodity remained under pressure from concerns about demand, despite moves to loosen monetary policy.
“It’s not central bank liquidity that oil markets need but global economic growth,” he said. “All the money in the world isn’t going to alleviate the fact markets are mired in a trade war-induced global economic slump that is factoring in both consumer and industrial consumption metrics.”