Asian stocks, FX edge higher on bets of Fed policy shift


MOST emerging Southeast Asian currencies and stocks traded higher on Monday, as investors assessed remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that reaffirmed expectations that the U.S. monetary tightening cycle has come to an end.

The Malaysian ringgit and the Philippine peso led the pack, adding 0.4% each, as of 0619 GMT.

Taiwanese dollar and Indonesian rupiah gained 0.3% each. While stocks in Bangkok, Manila, and Seoul rose more than 0.4% each, those in Jakarta advanced 1%, touching their highest level since October 2022.

Risk appetite improved on expectations the next move by the U.S. central bank will be to cut rates, with Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Friday declining the opportunity to push back hard against aggressive market pricing.

All eyes will be on the November U.S. jobs report due on Wednesday that could influence the outlook for U.S. interest rates.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the currency against six major counterparts, edged up to 103.33 in the Asian afternoon, but was still not far from Friday's close.

The unit lost 3% of its value in November, helping emerging Asian assets regain some lost ground.

"While risk currencies may remain buoyed ahead of next week's FOMC, "risk on" may not be unequivocally bold in shorting the USD either," Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank wrote.

Thailand's baht and the Indian rupee traded largely flat.

Recent volatility in oil prices over the conflict in the Middle East and uncertainty over OPEC+ voluntary output cuts have dented confidence in net oil-importing countries such as India and Thailand.

Stocks in India, however, advanced up to 1.7% to scale a record high after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) exceeded expectations in key state elections, according to results released over the weekend.

BJP's win in three of four major state elections will boost sentiment in the country's equity markets, potentially drawing higher foreign inflows on confidence in political stability, according to analysts.

Markets will be watching out for a slate of regional inflation data due later this week, with the Philippines on Tuesday, Taiwan on Wednesday, and Thailand on Thursday.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas last week highlighted still strong annual inflation for November, flagging higher prices on food, electricity, and toll prices as primary factors pushing prices upward.

In China, the yuan was largely flat after the country's central bank set another firm fix for the local unit. Trade figures for China are due later in the week with the recent trend of softening exports to the U.S. overshadowing gains in Asia.

"The RMB continues to be supported by the soft USD environment, but its domestic fundamentals paint a less upbeat picture," analysts at HSBC said in a note.

HIGHLIGHTS:

** South Korea to consult China over urea export delays

** China Evergrande liquidation hearing adjourned to January

** In boost for Modi, BJP sweeps polls in three Indian states - Reuters

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