Asian, European markets drop as China stimulus hopes fade
HONG KONG, China -Markets sank Monday with traders left disappointed by a lack of policy announcements from China aimed at kickstarting the ailing economy.
Equities enjoyed a strong run-up last week, partly on the back of hopes that Beijing would unveil a raft of economic stimulus to go with two interest rate cuts.
Expectations have been high that officials would provide help for the struggling property sector and introduce measures to kickstart consumer activity.
While state media reported that Premier Li Qiang held a State Council meeting Friday, there were few details, dealing a blow to sentiment and leading to an unwinding of some of last week’s rally.
“Government policy expectations were overdone,” said Steven Leung, at UOB Kay Hian.
Still, with the world’s number two economy struggling and key industries in trouble, leaders have plenty of work to do, analysts said.
“With all roads leading through China at the start of the week, investors’ stimulus excitement could give way to the reality that there are no quick fixes to the property market or youth unemployment,” said Stephen Innes at SPI Asset Management.
“Indeed, these areas of the economy could require a lengthy structural overhaul to repair. China needs to drive growth in sectors like technology, education, finance and entertainment, all of which have suffered under the security-focused leadership of Xi Jinping.”
After Wall Street closed Friday in the red, Asian traders struggled.
Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Mumbai, Singapore, Taipei, Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok and Wellington were all down, though Sydney rose.
Oil prices fell on the lack of policy direction from China.
London and Paris fell, while Frankfurt also drew back after striking a record high on Friday.
On a positive note, hopes for a thaw in China-US relations were boosted with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken set to meet Xi after holding talks with top envoy Wang Yi in Beijing.
That came after Blinken on Sunday held “candid” discussions for seven and a half hours with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and agreed to keep up communication as they look to avoid conflict.
A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the discussions went beyond the usual talking points, including on Taiwan.
The visit marks the highest-level trip by a top US diplomat in nearly five years.
Traders are also keeping tabs on comments from Fed officials after last week’s decision to hold rates.
Several decision-makers lined up Friday to offer their views on the next move as they try to bring inflation down.
Fed board member Christopher Waller said the economy remained robust and that he was against changing the bank’s tightening policy because of trouble in the banking system.
Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said he was happy to keep hiking if data did not show the labor market remained resilient and inflation sticky.
And Chicago Fed Chief Austan Goolsbee considered last week’s decision to skip a hike a “reconnaissance mission, pausing now to scope it out before charging up the hill another time”.
Investors will be closely watching Fed chief Jerome Powell’s twice-yearly testimony to Congress this week, hoping for clues about the policy board’s thinking.
On currency markets, the yen continued to struggle after the Bank of Japan on Friday stood pat on its ultra-loose monetary policy.
The unit was wallowing at a 15-year low against the euro, the BoJ decision coming a day after the European Central Bank hiked rates again and warned of more to come.
The pound will also be in view this week as the Bank of England holds its latest policy meeting, with expectations for another hike to battle persistently high inflation.
“The UK especially has a big inflation problem,” said CMC Markets’ Michael Hewson.
“The Bank of England, not for the first time, has allowed inflation expectations to get out of control. This was despite many warnings over the last 18 months that they were acting too slowly, even though they were the first central bank to start hiking rates.”