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Asian stocks muted as China caution limits Fed pivot cheer

Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks kept to a tight range on Wednesday as caution before key economic readings from China offset growing optimism over an early pivot by the Federal Reserve.

Regional stocks took some positive cues from Wall Street after several Fed officials expressed doubts over higher interest rates. Noted hawk Christopher Waller said that the bank was likely to keep rates on hold for the remainder of the year, and that easing inflation will see the bank begin cutting rates in 2024.

His comments ramped up bets that the Fed could begin trimming rates by as soon as March 2024, which spurred some flows into risk-driven assets. High U.S. interest rates were a key point of pressure for Asian markets over the past year, as foreign capital flows to the region dried up.

Chinese stocks sink, PMIs in focus

But gains in Asian bourses were constrained by caution over China, ahead of key purchasing managers index (PMI) data due on Thursday. The readings are expected to show a sustained decline in Chinese manufacturing activity- the country’s biggest economic driver.

Investors remained largely averse towards Chinese stocks before the reading, with the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes down 0.5% and 0.2%, respectively. Losses in mainland stocks also pulled Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index down 1.1%.

A warning on waning consumer spending from food delivery firm Meituan (HK:3690) also dampened sentiment towards China. The stock slid 8.2% and was the worst performer on the Hang Seng, even as it clocked strong third-quarter earnings.

Caution over China kept most other Asian bourses trading in a tight range, given that the country is a key source of export demand for most of the region.

South Korea’s KOSPI was flat, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.2%. Industrial production and retail sales readings from the two countries are also due on Thursday.

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a positive open, with shares under the Adani Group likely to extend gains after the Supreme Court reserved its verdict on petitions against the conglomerate over allegations raised by short-seller Hindenburg Research earlier this year.

Adani Enterprises Ltd (NS:ADEL)- the conglomerate’s flagship firm, surged nearly 9% on Tuesday.

Australian stocks buoyed by softer inflation

Australia’s ASX 200 was among the better performers for the day, rising 0.4% after data showed that consumer price index inflation fell more than expected in October.

The reading signaled that high interest rates were having their intended effect in bringing down inflation, and also pushed up hopes that the Reserve Bank of Australia will not raise interest rates any further.

But the reading still remained well above the RBA’s target range, while underlying inflation also remained sticky. This likely pointed to Australian interest rates remaining higher for longer in the coming months.

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