Stocks rise, dollar slips as Fed signals softer rate hike pace

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Kuala Lumpur surged more than three per cent and the ringgit held gains after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was named prime minister, ending a days-long leadership impasse after inconclusive polls that had rattled Malaysia’s markets.

London was flat at the open, while Paris and Frankfurt edged up.

The more risk-on environment was also reflected in a further drop in the dollar against its peers, having surged for much of the year as traders bet on ever-higher US interest rates.

“Equities are revelling in the wake of the … minutes after the Fed telegraphed a downshift from jumbo to extra-large rate hikes,” said SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes.

“A commitment to moving toward restrictive monetary policy remains intact, but the (policy board) is ready to slow the path toward that destination.”

He added that a less aggressive Fed “should pave the runway for take-off in Asia, fuelled by expectations of China’s reopening by March next year”.

Investors are keeping a close watch on China after it announced a record number of new COVID-19 cases on Thursday as authorities worked to curb the spread with snap lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions.

While officials are trying more targeted measures to contain the disease, concerns remain that they will resort to the painful city-wide shutdowns seen in Shanghai earlier this year as part of the zero-COVID strategy, which hammered the economy.

However, that worry has been tempered somewhat after China signalled fresh support measures aimed at boosting growth, with the State Council saying tools would be used to ensure liquidity in markets.

The comments led to talk of another cut in the amount of cash that banks must keep in reserve, freeing them to lend more.

Oil prices extended Wednesday’s sharp losses fuelled by worries about the impact on demand from China’s COVID-19 outbreaks.

SPI’s Innes added that a reported Group of Seven consideration for capping Russian crude at US$65 to US$70 a barrel was higher than expected and not far from the present discount of the contract. That meant the move would likely not hit exports materially, he said.

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