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Asian Stocks Show Mixed Performance Amid Global Economic Tensions

April 18, 2024

What you need to know about the markets for 18 April 2024:

Asian markets exhibited a mixed response with the MSCI AxJ index marking a modest increase of 0.3%. However, Japan’s Nikkei stands out with a looming 4% weekly decline, signaling heightened investor caution towards potential risks in the region.

The oil markets are currently experiencing a period of volatility, having faced a 3% drop overnight, the steepest in the last two and a half months. This decline stems from ongoing demand concerns and geopolitical tensions, particularly involving Iran and its implications on global oil supply dynamics. Historically, such geopolitical tensions have led to significant fluctuations in oil prices, similar to what was observed during the Gulf War and the more recent U.S.-Iran escalations in 2020.

TSMC Earnings Report

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is in the spotlight with investors awaiting its earnings report. The outcome could be crucial for tech stocks, particularly if mirrored by the recent dip following ASML’s earnings miss. In December 2018, TSMC’s unexpected earnings beat led to a significant rally in tech stocks, highlighting the influence major tech companies hold on market sentiments.

Globally, markets are still digesting the implications of persistent high U.S. interest rates as indicated by recent Federal Reserve communications. The shift towards a higher interest rate environment has historically resulted in pressure on equities, a scenario reminiscent of the 1980s rate hikes that culminated in Black Monday in 1987.

The dollar’s slight retreat in the current session comes amid new developments in currency diplomacy. A unique trilateral agreement between the U.S., Japan, and Korea hints at possible coordinated interventions to manage dollar strength.

In the bond markets, U.S. Treasury yields showed a notable decrease with 10-year yields dropping by 7.2 basis points to 4.59%. This movement suggests a temporary easing in selling pressures which could provide a brief respite for rate-sensitive sectors like real estate and utilities, which often benefit from lower yield environments.

Downward Pressure on Euro and AUD

The Euro and Australian dollar are facing downward pressures, notably influenced by the European Central Bank’s upcoming policy decisions and unexpected shifts in Australian employment data. Currency fluctuations often have a delayed impact on exports and imports, affecting companies with significant overseas operations.

Looking ahead, market attention will also be directed towards U.S. jobless claims data and notable earnings reports from Blackstone and Netflix. These could provide further clues on the health of the U.S. economy and consumer sentiment, potentially influencing market directions in the short term.

In commodities, while metal prices have temporarily stabilised, the year-to-date surge in copper and stable iron ore prices suggest a continued industrial demand. Gold remains just shy of its record high, underscoring its status as a safe haven amid ongoing market uncertainties.