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Global Stock Rally Stymied in Asia Before Powell

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Stocks in Asia ran out of steam as investors await the first public comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday. The dollar edged lower and Treasuries steadied.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of stocks pulled back from the day’s highs as S&P 500 Index futures fell. Japan’s stocks rose to the highest in more than three weeks while declines in large-cap companies led shares in China lower. The 10-year Treasury yield was steady after falling to a two-week low. German bunds declined and the euro inched higher.

The pace of U.S. monetary policy tightening remains a hot debate on Wall Street and traders are betting that Powell won’t seek to shock financial markets with overly hawkish comments this week. Federal Reserve Governor Randal Quarles made clear on Monday he thought a sustained period of higher growth might require higher interest rates, but not severe as to halt the expansion.

“In some ways his hands are a bit tied,” BNP Paribas Asset Management Senior Economist Steven Friedman told Bloomberg TV in New York. “The path of least resistance for him is to really stick to the script, which is to reiterate that there is a lot of underlying momentum in the economy, that gives them more confidence in their projections, but ultimately the path of interest rate increases is going to be gradual.”

Elsewhere, the won rose for a third day as the Bank of Korea left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 1.5 percent in Governor Lee Ju-yeol’s last policy meeting. Oil slipped following a three-day rally as investors awaited U.S. inventory data.

Here are some key events scheduled for this week:

Powell testifies before a House panel on Tuesday. He’ll discuss the Fed’s Semi-Annual Monetary Policy Report and the state of the economy. Powell returns on March 1 before a Senate committee.

Companies announcing earnings this week include: Vale, Bayer and Lowe’s.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech Friday on Britain’s relationship with the European Union after Brexit.

A barrage of data is expected out of Japan including retail sales and industrial production Wednesday, and capital spending Thursday.

In China, the official and Caixin purchasing managers’ indexes on Wednesday and Thursday respectively may show growth momentum slowed slightly in February, though the signal may be clouded by the holidays.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.3 percent as of 4:13 p.m. Tokyo time.

Topix index advanced 0.9 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.7 percent.

Kospi index fell 0.1 percent.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.2 percent.

Futures on the S&P 500 Index fell 0.2 percent.

Currencies

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell less than 0.1 percent.

The Japanese yen rose 0.1 percent to 106.84 per dollar.

The euro rose 0.1 percent to $1.233.

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries fell less than one basis point to 2.86 percent.

Japan’s 10-year yield fell less than one basis point to 0.046 percent.

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude rose less than 0.05 percent to $63.92 a barrel.

Gold rose less than 0.05 percent to $1,333.93 an ounce.

LME copper rose 0.4 percent to $7,136.00 per metric ton.

Source: Bloomberg