Asian Stocks Drop From 1-Year High, Dollar Rises on Fed Rate Comments

People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Asian stocks pulled back from a one-year high and the dollar strengthened on Wednesday, after an influential Federal Reserve official said interest rates could rise as soon as September.

European markets are poised for slight gains, with financial spreadbetter CMC Markets predicting Britain’s FTSE 100 and France’s CAC 40 will open about 0.1 percent higher, and Germany’s DAX will start the day little changed.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.3 percent while Japan’s Nikkei closed 0.9 percent higher, paring some of Tuesday’s sharp losses, thanks to a weaker yen.

China’s CSI 300 index and the Shanghai Composite both erased earlier losses to trade flat, after authorities approved the launch of a long-awaited plan to allow stock trading between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and lifted quota limits for the existing Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect.

Wall Street shares retreated from record highs, with the S&P 500 losing 0.55 percent.

New York Fed President William Dudley said that as the U.S. labor market tightens and as evidence of rising wages builds, “we’re edging closer towards the point in time where it will be appropriate, I think, to raise interest rates further.”

Comments from Dudley, a permanent voter on policy and a close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, also included an unusual warning on low bond yields and were seen as a more hawkish than cautious message last month.

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart, seen as centrist, concurred, saying he did not rule out a September hike – something markets have almost completely priced out.

Data released on Tuesday lent some support to their views, with U.S. industrial production and housing starts expanding in July, although consumer prices were unchanged from June, following two consecutive monthly increases of 0.2 percent.

Markets still only partly believe their comments, remembering that the Fed ended up keeping rates on hold in June even after Fed officials talked up the possibility of a rate hike in the preceding weeks.

“Clearly the Fed seems to think the market’s pricing of a September rate hike is too low. Today’s minutes of the Fed’s July policy meeting could be more hawkish than market expectations,” said Tomoaki Shishido, Fixed Income Strategist at Nomura Securities.

Yields on two-year notes briefly touched a near three-week high of 0.758 percent, but failed to reach the July peak of 0.778 percent, and were last at 0.750 percent.

Fed funds rate futures are pricing in a 50 percent chance of a rate rise by December, a slight increase from earlier this week.

The comments pulled the dollar from seven-week lows hit just after the inflation data.

The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies plunged as low as 94.426 on Tuesday, its lowest level since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June. It was last trading at 94.96, down 0.8 percent on the week.

The euro edged back 0.1 percent to $1.12635, after touching $1.1323 on Tuesday, the highest level since the Brexit vote.

The dollar extended gains 0.7 percent to 100.97 yen after falling to as low as 99.55 on Tuesday and coming within sight of its 2-½-year trough of 99.00 set on June 24 after the British referendum.

“As the world economy is slowing down, many countries now need a cheaper currency to support share prices. The U.S. wants a cheaper dollar and so does China, leaving the yen taking the brunt,” said Daisuke Uno, Chief Strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.

The British pound, which touched a five-week low against the dollar on Monday, held steady, following gains of 1.3 percent on Tuesday. It also hit a three-year low of 87.245 pence per euro on Tuesday after U.K. inflation came in stronger than expected.

The data was the first in a run of July economic data that should show some of the initial impact of the Brexit vote on the economy.

The pound was last trading at $1.3039. It was also flat against the euro at 86.405 pence.

The pound is bracing for U.K. unemployment data later in the day.