By Hideyuki Sano and Vidya Ranganathan
TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks buckled while the dollar held firm on Monday after strong U.S. jobs data fanned expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve may raise interest rates sooner than previously thought.
Stock markets across Asia, including Japan’s Nikkei <.N225>, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia fell broadly, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> dropping 1.2 percent.
European stock markets were expected to do likewise, with financial spreadbetters expecting Britain’s FTSE 100 <.FTSE> to open down 0.5 percent, Germany’s DAX <.GDAXI> off 0.5 percent, and France’s CAC 40 <.FCHI> to ease 0.4 percent.
U.S. non-farm payrolls (NFP) data on Friday showed the unemployment rate hit a 6-1/2-year low of 5.5 percent in February.
Wage gains were only slight, yet the data stoked expectations that the Fed was now likely to drop a reference to ‘patience’ on the timing of a rate hike at its next policy meeting on March 18, thus opening the door for a June rate rise.
While the futures markets were quick to price in improved odds of the Federal Reserve raising rates in June or September, analysts pointed to historically low inflation in the United States and slowing growth as reasons to be worried.
“The specter is that of a Fed hiking rates into an economic slowdown, and a higher dollar and higher real rates taking further steam out of the economy. Who should cheer that?” analysts at Reorient Research said in a note.
Analysts at Mizuho Bank said job growth was still uneven across sectors and wage inflation was soft, hence the February job data was not an “unequivocally green light” for a June rate rise.
“The Fed will not jump the gun on this NFP read, and will be willing to wait, but we will not wager on unconditional patience indefinitely,” Mizuho said.
On Wall Street, the S&P500 Index <.SPX> fell 1.4 percent to a three-week low on Friday. S&P futures <ESc1> were slightly weaker on Monday.
U.S. debt yields jumped, with the yield on 10-year notes surging to a 10-week high of 2.259 percent. On Monday, the yield last stood at 2.249 percent.
Money market futures prices <0#ED:> <0#FF:> were almost fully pricing in a first Fed rate hike by the summer.
In Asia, the Australian and New Zealand dollars hovered near one-month lows.
The Aussie was at $ 0.7710, close to a six-year low of $ 0.7627 plumbed last month but finding some support after Australian job ads rose for the ninth straight month in February.
The New Zealand dollar stood at $ 0.7350, having been one of the worst performers after a near 2 percent fall to a low of $ 0.7357 on Friday.
The dollar index <.DXY>, which rose 1.28 percent on Friday in its biggest daily gain since July 2013, advanced further to trade at 97.80, its highest level in 11-1/2 years.
The euro fell as low as $ 1.0822 in early Monday trade and last stood at $ 1.0850.
The dollar fetched 120.95 yen, having hit a three-month high of 121.29 yen.
Richard Jerram, Chief Economist, Bank of Singapore, expects to see the euro at $ 1.05 by year end, and yen at 125 per dollar.
“Irrespective of whether the first interest rate hike comes in June or September, we are concerned that the market is underestimating the speed and scale of tightening over the following couple of years,” he wrote to clients.
“This sustained policy divergence with other major developed economies means that the dollar should continue to strengthen.”
Gold also fell to three-month low of $ 1,164.10 per ounce on Friday. Early on Monday it traded at $ 1,169.90.
The U.S. data appeared to have overshadowed other data including figures from China on Sunday that showed a surge in exports in February.
But analysts also warned that the Chinese data was likely to be distorted due to the timing of the Lunar New Year.
(Editing by Edmund Klamann & Kim Coghill)
- Budget, Tax & Economy
- Federal Reserve
- unemployment rate