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US bloom, Asia gloom?

The December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting has finally come and passed with the 0.25% interest rate hike final delivered.


What captured the market’s attention and also created additional content for the market to work on had been the Fed’s outlook.

Coming full circle, the FOMC has once again lifted interest rates one year after last December’s meeting. The main takeaways from the Wednesday meeting had however been the increase in rate hike projections and the lack of reference to the incoming administration’s fiscal spending plans.

The median FOMC projection now sees rates coming in between 1.25% and 1.5%, rounding off to three additional hikes by the end of 2017, which had been a surprise for markets. As things stand, the market has now accrued approximately 30% probability for three hikes next year. It is no surprise to hear scepticisms of the projections shortly after the meeting, especially given the fact that they had only delivered a quarter of last December’s projections. Ultimately, the FOMC would remain data driven in their decision making, though we do have a rosier outlook for the US in the year ahead underpinning this optimism.

Notably, the Fed’s avoidance of fiscal policy mentions clearly indicated that the committee has as little clarity in the timing and magnitude of fiscal spending plans as the market. This would likely be a point that the market will continue to watch closely we step into the New Year.

Compared to the hike we saw last year, which blew over without ruffling any feather, we certainly see additional pressure for Asian markets today. The expected US dollar strength comes with divergent impact on Asian markets. USD/JPY shot straight up by 2 big figures from $115.00 level to $117.70 when last checked at 8.45am (Singapore time). Correspondingly, the Nikkei 225 was up by more than 0.8%. This could also in part be attributed to the Bank of Japan’s latest announcement, where the central bank was heard contemplating raising the country’s economic outlook.

Conversely, the rest of the Asian markets will likely experience the pressure of the strong USD today in addition to the weak leads overnight from US and European markets. Nevertheless it may not necessarily be a sustained case of US against Asia with President-elect Donald Trump’s address of trade policies in his first 100 days to shed light on the development of trade between US and the Asia bloc.

Early data from Asia saw Japan’s December Nikkei manufacturing PMI up at 51.9 from 51.3 previously. Bank of Korea has also kept their 7-day repo rate unchanged at 1.25%. Bank Indonesia will also announce their interest rate decision in the day while Singapore’s October retail sales and Indonesia’s November trade balance will be due.

©2008 International Financial Management Association (IFMA)