By Ambar Warrick
Investing.com– Most Asian stock markets moved in a flat-to-low range on Thursday as markets weighed the prospect of a less hawkish Federal Reserve against increased economic headwinds in the coming months.
Hong Kong’s index was the sole outperformer for the day, rising 0.7% on strength in heavyweight technology stocks after Tencent Holdings Ltd (HK:) logged better-than-expected annual results. The reading helped spur some optimism over a Chinese economic recovery this year.
Hong Kong’s Monetary Authority also , keeping pace with the Fed.
But Chinese indexes were mixed, with the up 0.3%, while the lost 0.1%, as major property stocks sank after beleaguered developer China Evergrande Group (HK:) outlined a debt restructuring plan, which could set a precedent for the rest of the sector.
Other Asian markets crept lower. India’s and indexes fell 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively, while Australia’s shed 0.6%.
Japan’s index fell 0.3% ahead of a key reading on Friday, which is largely expected to factor into the Bank of Japan’s stance on monetary policy in the coming months.
Sentiment in Asia was dented by a weak lead-in from Wall Street, as after the Federal Reserve decision on Wednesday.
The Fed and hinted at a potential pause in its rate hike cycle in the wake of a banking crash. But the central bank reiterated its commitment to bringing down inflation, forecasting at least one more hike this year, and said it has no intention of cutting interest rates this year.
While U.S. interest rates are now trending close to their peak in this tightening cycle, analysts warned that further increases, along with rates remaining higher for longer, are likely to apply increased pressure on the economy this year.
The Fed also trimmed its annual GDP outlook.
The prospect of high U.S. interest rates bodes poorly for Asian markets, given that foreign capital flows to the region are expected to remain constrained amid tighter monetary conditions. Fears of an economic slowdown are also expected to keep investors risk-averse, limiting appetite for Asian markets.
Risk-heavy Southeast Asian markets declined on Thursday, with the and losing 0.6% and 0.4%, respectively.