Asian markets rally as earnings divert from inflation worry

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets rose Tuesday, extending a Wall Street rally as optimism over corporate earnings provided some respite from long-running worries about inflation, central bank tightening and signs of a slowing economic recovery.

A string of forecast-beating profit reports from businesses over the past week has provided a much-needed boost to investors who have for much of the year been waiting nervously for finance chiefs to start winding in the vast cash support put in place at the start of the pandemic.

The positive readings have eased concerns about the impact on companies’ bottom lines from surging inflation, a brewing energy crisis and expectations that the era of cheap money will soon be coming to an end.

“We are going to get a lot of information on whether margins are being squeezed by these shortages and higher prices, and wages continuing to go up,” said JoAnne Feeney, of Advisors Capital Management, on Bloomberg Television.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq on Wall Street ended in positive territory, and Asia followed suit.

Hong Kong and Taipei put on more than one percent each, while Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Wellington, Manila and Jakarta also saw healthy gains.

Investors brushed off reports that North Korea had fired an unidentified projectile into the sea.

While attention is largely on the release of profit reports, traders are also awaiting comments from the Federal Reserve as it prepares to scale back its vast bond-buying programme with an eye on surging prices.

The bank has already signalled a start to the taper before the end of the year but observers are now pricing in the possibility of an interest rate hike in mid-2022, much earlier than had originally been envisaged.

“The world is watching interest rates more closely than it has for some time,” Chris Weston, at Pepperstone Financial, said, adding that it was “impressive how resilient and calm markets are in the face of the rates repricing”.

Analysts said Hong Kong was enjoying a break from selling — it has lost more than five percent this year — as China shows signs of slowing its crackdown on private enterprises such as tech firms that are listed in the city.

They added that concerns about the country’s growth, which has been stunted by a regulatory drive against the property sector, could also be a factor in leaders stepping back from further measures.

Oil markets were flat as traders took a breather after a recent run-up in prices that has been fuelled by slim supplies and expectations for a surge in demand through the northern hemisphere winter.

A spike in the cost of natural gas has also seen energy providers switch to crude in some cases, adding to upward pressure on the commodity, while OPEC’s decision not to ramp up output has further complicated the issue.

Bitcoin was hovering around $62,000, less than $3,000 short of its April record, with a new security to trade the cryptocurrency due to begin trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.