Equities extend rally on rate hopes, traders await Opec decision


People wearing protective masks walk in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Tokyo. Asian shares were mostly lower on Monday after Wall Street closed out a miserable September with a loss of 9.3%, the worst monthly decline since March 2020. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

HONG KONG (AFP): Asian investors joined their Wall Street and European counterparts in an equity buying spree Wednesday (Oct 5) as more data pointing to weakness in the US economy further fanned hopes the Federal Reserve could temper its rate hike campaign.

The much-needed dose of optimism has also put pressure on the dollar, pushing it down against most of its peers and adding to the upward march in oil prices fuelled by expectations Opec will announce a massive output cut later in the day.

The mood on trading floors was lightened Monday by data showing US factory activity slowed more than forecast in September to a two-year low, suggesting the Fed's rate hike campaign against decades-high inflation could be kicking in.

That was followed Tuesday by news that US job openings had also dropped by almost 10 per cent in August, its fastest fall since April 2020.

"Rate hikes are really beginning to take a bite out of the US employment numbers," said Matt Simpson, of City Index.

He added that the figures put more emphasis on jobs reports out later in the week, with weak readings likely to provide more support to stocks as investors bet the Fed will temper its tightening campaign.

However, officials at the central bank continue to flag their determination to crush inflation, even if that means sparking a recession.

"For the market to continue higher, the jobs data will have to be in-line with, or short of expectations," said Lindsey Bell, of Ally Financial.

The market is currently anticipating a "Goldilocks" labour market report that's "not too hot and not too cold".

All three main indexes on Wall Street rallied Tuesday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq up more than three per cent, while European markets also thundered higher.

And Asia continued the run, with Hong Kong rocketing more than five per cent as investors there returned from a one-day break, while there were also healthy performances in Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Jakarta and Manila.

The gains were also helped by a smaller-than-expected rate hike by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

That came after the Bank of England last week pledged to pump billions of dollars into supporting financial markets after they were hammered by the UK government's big-borrowing mini-budget.

The BoE pivot "seems to have convinced investors that the Fed now must give more weight to financial stability, which means that the current monetary tightening cycle might end sooner rather than later", Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research, said.

Focus is now on the meeting later Wednesday of Opec and other major producers, who are reportedly considering a two million barrels cut in output -- double what had earlier been flagged -- after prices plunged to their January lows owing to recession concerns.

Both main contracts have bounced this week on talk of the reductions, while the weaker dollar makes the commodity cheaper for buyers using other currencies.

While WTI and Brent dipped slightly, analysts said they may have more road to run up as supplies tighten and the dollar softens.

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