Asia-Pacific stocks mixed as U.S. Fed minutes point to more rate hikes ahead – CNBC

SINGAPORE — Asia-Pacific stocks struggled for direction on Thursday after U.S. Federal Reserve meeting minutes showed officials stressing the need to raise interest rates swiftly and potentially more than markets anticipated.

Mainland Chinese stocks recovered from earlier losses as the Shanghai Composite closed 0.5% higher at 3,123.11 while the Shenzhen Component gained 0.571% to 11,206.82. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped around 0.7%, as of its final hour of trading.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 finished the trading day 0.27% lower at 26,604.84 while the Topix index rose fractionally to 1,877.58. South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.18%, closing at 2,612.45.

The Bank of Korea announced Thursday a 25 basis points increase in its Base Rate to 1.75%, the central bank’s second straight rate hike.

The Korean won changed hands at 1,266.51 following the announcement, stronger than levels above 1,274 seen against the greenback seen last week.

The market found some relief on the notion that the Minutes revealed a broad consensus for 50bps hikes in June and July and the possibility for a pause later in the year.

Rodrigo Catril

National Australia Bank

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia closed 0.69% lower at 7,105.90.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped about 0.5%.

U.S. Fed minutes released Wednesday showed officials are prepared to move ahead with several 50 basis point interest rate hikes. The Federal Open Market Committee also said policy may have to move away from “neutral” and into “restrictive” territory.

“As we’re in a more hawkish and tighter monetary sort of situation, you know, a lot of investors have been dumping the higher quality growth names and buying into value,” Marco Giubin, senior portfolio manager for equities at Manulife Investment Management, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.

“To some extent, that was justified because a lot of the growth stocks were overpriced. But a lot of these stocks have come off quite a lot,” Giubin said, adding that now could be a “good time” for investors to look at areas like renewable energy and electric vehicle supply chain where share prices currently look “pretty reasonable.”

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Shares on Wall Street rose following the release of the Fed minutes, with the S&P 500 climbing around 0.95% to 3,978.73. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 191.66 points, or 0.6%, to 32,120.28. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.51% to 11,434.74.

“The FOMC Minutes revealed a broad consensus for the need to tighten the policy rate by 50bps over the next couple of meetings,” National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril wrote in a Thursday note.

“The market found some relief on the notion that the Minutes revealed a broad consensus for 50bps hikes in June and July and the possibility for a pause later in the year,” Catril said.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 102.053 following a recent slip from levels above 102.2.

The Japanese yen traded at 126.90 per dollar, weaker as compared with levels below 126.9 seen against the greenback earlier this week. The Australian dollar was at $0.7085 after touching an earlier high of $0.7109.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures climbing 0.25% to $114.32 per barrel. U.S. crude futures gained 0.45% to $110.83 per barrel.

— CNBC’s Jeff Cox contributed to this report.

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