Morning bid: Yen hurtles toward historic low, Fed in focus

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 4:51 PM

By Jamie McGeever

(Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in Asian markets.

The central bank policy party rolls on into Wednesday with China and Indonesia under the spotlight in Asia ahead of the main event in Washington later in the day, as investors continue to digest the Bank of Japan’s historic rate hike the day before.

The yen fell to a four-month low on Tuesday, hurtling towards 151.00 per dollar as investors took the BOJ’s messaging to mean any further tightening will be gradual.

If so, rate and yield spreads will continue to support major currencies like the dollar at the expense of the yen. The “carry trade” dynamic could be underscored even more on Wednesday by the Federal Reserve’s policy statement, updated economic projections and Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference.

The yen’s slide on Tuesday bucked the trend among major global currencies and pushed it back within sight of the recent multi-decade lows around 152.00 per dollar.

The weak yen goes hand in glove with stronger Japanese stocks – the Nikkei 225 is back above 40,000 and within touching distance of its record high 40,472 points from earlier this month. A new high on Wednesday?

Markets across the continent could open Wednesday in buoyant mood and shrug off the previous day’s weakness, thanks to another rise on Wall Street and fall in U.S. bond yields.

Any upside could be limited, however, by investors’ reluctance to take on too much exposure ahead of the Fed. And although China’s economic surprises index is at a 10-month high, worries persist over the country’s property crisis.

This helps explain why 30-year Chinese government bond yields are down 40 basis points this year, recently hitting a record low of below 2.4% and coming within a whisker of dropping below 10-year yields, which also have hit 22-year troughs.

Analysts reckon the People’s Bank of China will leave its one- and five-year loan prime rates unchanged, after it left key bank lending rates on holds earlier this month.

Despite the deflationary pressures still stalking the economy, monetary policy has “pretty much reached the limits of what it can do … and so any further easing is likely to be modest,” according to Win Thin at BBH.

Bank Indonesia, meanwhile, is also expected to hold rates for a fifth month on Wednesday but cut in the second quarter of the year, according to a slim majority of economists in a Reuters poll.

With inflation within the target range of 1.5% to 3.5% since July and the economy showing signs of a slowdown, all 31 economists in the March 8-15 poll agreed the central bank’s next move would be a cut. The only issue is when.

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

– China LPR decision

– Indonesia monetary policy decision

– U.S. Fed policy decision

(By Jamie McGeever; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)