Markets mixed as strong US jobs data fans Fed rate hike bets

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 08 2022 07:18 PM

HONG KONG - Markets were mixed Monday and the dollar held big gains as a blockbuster US jobs report ramped up bets that the Federal Reserve will announce more sharp interest rate hikes as it tries to tame runaway inflation.

While the employment reading -- which was more than twice as high as expected -- indicated the world's top economy remained resilient despite rising prices and borrowing costs, it will complicate the central bank's plans to tighten monetary policy.

Traders have hoped that with several indicators pointing to a slowdown, including GDP figures showing a technical recession, policymakers could begin to ease back on their pace of rate hikes.

Now, speculation is growing that the Fed will have to announce a third successive 75 basis-point increase next month, particularly as officials have said their decisions will be data-dependent.

"Friday's payroll report indicates an overheated labor market that continues to tighten further," said SPI Asset Management's Stephen Innes.

"Hence at minimum, the markets expect another 100 basis points of Fed funds rate increases over the next three meetings... with risks skewed towards significant increases."

All eyes are now on the release this week of US July inflation data, which is expected to show a slight slowdown from June but still at four-decade highs.

The "report seems very unlikely to offer 'compelling evidence' of a slowdown needed for the Fed to pull away from its aggressive inflation-fighting mode", Innes added.

The jobs figures left Wall Street's main indexes mixed Friday, and Asia followed suit with markets fluctuating in early trade.

However, there was some relief that tensions had calmed since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan last week sparked a furious reaction from China, including live-fire military drills around the island that continued Monday.

Hong Kong fell, with little excitement generated by news that the city will cut the amount of time incoming travelers must spend in hotel quarantine.

Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok, Jakarta and Wellington were also down, but Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Mumbai and Manila edged up.

Shanghai was boosted by better-than-expected Chinese trade data, though the gains were tempered by fresh worries about Covid lockdowns in the country that threaten the economic recovery.

London, Frankfurt and Paris rose in the morning.

The prospect of higher interest rates sent the dollar surging, and it held on to those gains in Asia.

Oil rose but bets on a recession across leading economies continued to fuel concerns about demand -- figures last week indicated Americans were driving less now than in summer 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

A rise in US stockpiles was partly responsible for a 10 percent drop in the commodity last week, pushing WTI below $90 for the first time since February.

Both main contracts have lost all the gains seen in the wake of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, which led the United States and Europe to ban imports of Russian crude, hammering already thin supplies.

Fresh talks on Iran's nuclear program were being followed.

"The resumption of Iran nuclear talks... is one potential downside risk for the oil price, given the ability of the country to quickly ramp up production if a deal is struck," said OANDA's Craig Erlam.

"Not to mention its reportedly large oil and gas reserves. A deal could apparently be struck within days, although we have heard that a lot at times this year."