Asian equities reach seven-month high as Hong Kong shares play catch up

Singapore — Asian equities rose to a fresh seven-month high on Thursday, with Hong Kong shares playing catch-up to other markets’ gains as trade resumed after its three-day Lunar New Year holiday.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 0.56% to 555.81. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was 1.6% higher.

Japan’s Nikkei was, however, 0.25% lower.

Trading was thin on Thursday with Australia closed for a holiday and certain parts of Asia, including China, still away for the Lunar New Year.

Traders betting that the US Federal Reserve will soon tone down its aggressive rate hike policy got a lift after the Bank of Canada on Wednesday became the first major central bank to say it would likely hold off on further increases for now.

After a series of supersized rate hikes last year, the US central bank is now largely expected to raise rates by a smaller 25 basis points (bps) next week on signs that inflation is cooling.

“The US GDP release today will be of key interest to gauge whether the market expectations shifting in favour of a soft landing rather than a recession can continue to hold,” Saxo strategists said in a note to clients.

Soft landing?

The prospect of a less aggressive pace in monetary tightening has stoked expectations of a so-called soft landing — a scenario in which inflation eases against a backdrop of weakening but resilient economic growth.

But weak corporate earnings so far have revived worries over the economic impact of the Fed’s restrictive policy and the S&P 500 ended lower overnight.

Boeing on Wednesday reported a wider loss for 2022 on weakness in its defence unit as it warned of further supply chain issues, with the US plane maker missing Wall Street expectations on revenue and earnings per share in the final quarter of the year.

Investor attention will also be on the Bank of England (BOE) and European Central Bank (ECB) meetings due next week, with traders looking for clues as to when the central banks are likely to turn dovish.