Most Asian markets advance after latest Wall St record

- AP Photo

HONG KONG: Equities rose across most of Asia on Wednesday (June 19) following yet another record day in New York fuelled by data that boosted US interest rate cut hopes, though expectations were tempered by cautious comments from Federal Reserve officials.

The below-forecast May retail sales figures pointed to signs of fatigue among American consumers -- a crucial driver of growth -- suggesting the world's number one economy was slowing and giving the central bank room to ease monetary policy.

The reading helped to slightly offset a surprisingly large jump in US jobs creation that pointed to a still-resilient labour market despite a long-running campaign of rate hikes and stubbornly high inflation.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq clocked up more records, driven again by a surge in demand for Big Tech, with Nvidia overtaking Microsoft to become the world's most valuable publicly traded company.

Chip giant Nvidia, a titan in the artificial intelligence sector, hit a market capitalisation of $3.349 trillion after cruising nearly 3,500 percent higher in the past five years. And one analyst predicted it could even hit $5 trillion in the coming year, according to Bloomberg News.

The rally on Wall Street spilled over into Asia, with tech firms among the big winners.

Hong Kong piled on more than one percent after a recent run of weakness, while Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Manila and Taipei also rose.

Shanghai, Sydney and Wellington edged down.

"The data clearly reflects a shift in US consumer behaviour, which is becoming more conservative, feeling the pinch from higher interest rates, curbing wage increases and a depletion of savings," said Rodrigo Catril of National Australia Bank.

"Importantly, too, we expect more of the same over coming quarters."

The Fed's so-called "dot plot" guidance to interest rates showed officials see just one cut before January, down from three predicted in March, and while some observers are optimistic for two, or even three, decision-makers remain reluctant.

On Tuesday, Fed governor Adriana Kugler said the policy was "sufficiently restrictive to help cool the economy and bring inflation back toward 2 percent without a sharp contraction in economic activity or a significant deterioration of the labour market".

And St. Louis Fed boss Alberto Musalem added that he needed to see a "period of favourable inflation, moderating demand and expanding supply" before he could consider easing.

"These conditions could take months, and more likely quarters to play out," he warned. - AFP




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