Asia markets mostly up as investors await Powell’s testimony

Asian markets mostly edged up in Wednesday afternoon trade as investors await comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for possible clues on the central bank’s next move on interest rates.

Mainland Chinese stocks ended the morning session largely unchanged, with the Shanghai composite, Shenzhen component and Shenzhen composite all close to flat.

Meanwhile, the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong added 0.32%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan also rose 0.4%.

South Korea’s Kospi advanced 0.57% as shares of chipmaker SK Hynix soared more than 4.5%. Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.45% as most sectors traded higher.

In Japan, however, the Nikkei 225 slipped fractionally and the Topix fell 0.36% in afternoon trade.

China consumer inflation increases

The consumer price index in China rose 2.7% year-on-year in June, in line with expectations from a Reuters poll.

One strategist said the rise in consumer prices in China may abate in the near future.

“The pork price pressure would wane somewhat in the second half, I believe, and other food prices may have a similar trend,” Daniel So, strategist at CMB International Securities, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Wednesday.

A decline in pork supply caused by an outbreak of African swine fever has been driving up prices of food in China. In June, food prices in June increased 8.3% year-on-year, higher than the previous month’s figure of 7.7%.

“I don’t think the monetary policy will be very affected by the recent spike in inflation,” So said. “By and large, the monetary policy may stay stable and a little bit more easing would be expected.”

Fed watch

Investors will be watching out for clues on whether the Fed will cut rates at its upcoming monetary meeting. Fed Chair Powell is scheduled to testify in front of the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. This comes just after a stronger-than-expected jobs report raised questions about the central bank’s next move on interest rates.

“We expect Powell to reiterate both the Fed’s belief that the case for more accommodative monetary policy has strengthened and its commitment to ensuring the US economic expansion does not falter,” Joseph Capurso, senior currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note.

On the U.S.-China trade front, high level trade negotiations occurred between Beijing and Washington earlier this week, according to a U.S. official, who said “both sides will continue these talks as appropriate.”

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.517 following its rise from levels below 97.2 earlier in the week.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.88 against the dollar after seeing levels below 108.5 earlier in the week, while the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6919 after slipping from levels above $0.695 yesterday.

Oil prices gained in the afternoon of Asian trading hours. International benchmark Brent crude futures added 0.9% to $64.74 per barrel, while U.S. crude futures jumped 1.35% to $58.61 per barrel.

Source: CNBC