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Asian Shares Firm As Fed Tempers Aggressive Rate Hike Bets

Clayton Lee

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An investor walks past an electronic board displaying live market data at a stock broker’s office in central Bangkok, Thailand, August 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

By Alun John

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Asian shares tracked Wall Street gains on Thursday after the U.S. central bank raised interest rates by 50 basis points but sounded a less hawkish tone than some had feared, lifting investor sentiment but sending yields and the dollar lower.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.52%, although trading was thin with Japanese and Korean markets closed for public holidays.

Crude prices, meanwhile, shot up as the European Union spelled out some of the details of its plan to ban the use of Russian oil, heightening concerns about supply.

Early moves in Asia followed a U.S. rally overnight where the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.81%, the S&P 500 gained 2.99%, and the Nasdaq advanced 3.19%. [.N]

“Markets appeared to breathe a sigh of relief following the Fed’s 50 basis point hike and Powell’s comment that a 75bp isn’t something the (Fed’s policy committee) is currently considering,” said ANZ analysts.

In Asia, the focus shifts to mainland Chinese markets, which return from a three-day break on Thursday with investors watching closely to see if tech-led gains made just before the break hold.

Chinese names rallied after Beijing signaled an easing of its crackdown on the once-freewheeling tech sector and pledged policy support for the world’s second-largest economy.

This week, Hong Kong stocks have edged lower while the offshore Chinese yuan has been volatile though still stronger than it was last week. (HK)

The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark overnight interest rate by half a percentage point, the biggest jump in 22 years. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said policymakers were ready to approve half-percentage-point rate hikes at upcoming policy meetings in June and July.

However, Powell also said the Fed was not “actively considering” a 75 basis-point rate hike, tempering some market expectations for an aggressive tightening path.

That sent the dollar lower, where it stayed in early Asia.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six peers, was at 102.56, having been as firm as 103.63 on Wednesday.

U.S. Treasuries were not trading because of the holiday in Japan, but also fell overnight. The benchmark 10 year yield was last 2.9402%, down from just over 3%.

Oil extended gains on Thursday after the European Union, the world’s largest trading bloc, on spelled out plans to phase out imports of Russian oil

U.S. crude futures gained 0.5% to $108.36 a barrel and Brent rose 0.6% $110.8. Both benchmarks rose over $5 a barrel on Wednesday. [O/R]

Asian shares firm, dollar bruised as Fed hike dashes more hawkish bets

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U.S. Senate Committee Backs Biden Nominee to Be Ukraine Ambassador

Clayton Lee

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bridget Brink, nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testifies at her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next ambassador to Ukraine, veteran diplomat Bridget Brink, and planned to push for her quick confirmation by the full Senate.

Brink is expected to easily win confirmation to a crucial position that has been vacant for three years.

The committee held Brink’s confirmation hearing on May 10, just two weeks after Biden sent her name to the Senate. The quick action underscored the desire from both Biden’s Democrats and Republicans to send an ambassador to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he faces Russia’s invasion.

The Senate is expected later this week to approve nearly $40 billion in military and humanitarian support for Kyiv.

A Michigan native who speaks Russian, Brink is currently U.S. ambassador to Slovakia. She has been a career diplomat for 25 years and has worked in Uzbekistan and Georgia as well as in several senior positions across the State Department and White House National Security Council.

Brink was confirmed by unanimous voice vote in 2019, when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for the position in Bratislava.

U.S. Senate committee backs Biden nominee to be Ukraine ambassador

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Japan’s Trade Gap Widens As Import Costs Surge on Supply Pressures

Clayton Lee

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A cargo ship and containers are seen at an industrial port in Tokyo, Japan, February 15, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports logged a third straight month of double-digit gains in April led by U.S. demand, but surging global commodity costs inflated the country’s import bill to a record, adding to worries about the rising cost of living.

Shoring up the prospects of a private demand-led recovery, however, was a gauge of capital expenditure that posted its first monthly gain in three months.

The mixed data on Thursday followed the yen’s falls to two-decade lows beyond 131 to the dollar earlier in May, which stoked fears of worsening terms of trade and added financial burdens for the resource-poor Japanese economy as import costs soar.

A weak yen, once considered a boon to the export-led economy, is now having less of an impact as shipments grow smaller, given the ongoing shift by Japanese manufacturers to offshore production.

Japan’s exports rose 12.5% in April from a year earlier, Ministry of Finance data showed, led by U.S.-bound shipments of cars and undershooting a 13.8% increase expected by economists in a Reuters poll. It followed a 14.7% rise in March.

Imports rose 28.2% in the year to April, versus the median estimate for a 35.0% increase, as a weaker yen helped boost already surging global commodity prices.

That resulted in a trade deficit of 839.2 billion yen ($6.54 billion), narrower than the median estimate for a 1.150 trillion yen shortfall but posting a ninth straight month in the red.

Analysts have warned of the risks of prolonged cost-push inflation to the fragile economy with external factors, not domestic demand, pushing import bills higher.

Separate data showed on Thursday Japan’s core machinery orders rose 7.1% in March from the previous month, versus a 3.7% increase expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

The volatile data series, regarded as a leading gauge of capital expenditure in the coming six to nine months, provided a glimmer of hope for a domestic demand-led recovery.

Japan’s economy shrank for the first time in two quarters in the January-March period as COVID-19 curbs hit the service sector and surging commodity prices created new pressures.

($1 = 128.3600 yen)

Japan’s trade gap widens as import costs surge on supply pressures

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Barclays Appoints Hossein Zaimi As Asia Pacific Markets Head

Clayton Lee

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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A branch of Barclays Bank is seen, in London, Britain, February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Barclays (LON:BARC) said on Thursday Hossein Zaimi had been appointed as its head of markets for Asia Pacific and would join the bank after a long career at rival HSBC

Zaimi will remain based in Hong Kong and report to Adeel Khan and Stephen Dainton, co-heads of Barclays global markets business and Jaideep Khanna, the bank’s head of Asia Pacific, a statement said.

Zaimi spent more than 17 years at HSBC and was most recently the global head of equities and global co-head of securities financing.

Barclays appoints Hossein Zaimi as Asia Pacific markets head

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