GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks drift, dollar firm as Fed rate path pondered

BY Reuters | ECONOMIC | 05/07/24 10:22 PM EDT

By Kevin Buckland

TOKYO, May 8 (Reuters) - Asian stocks lacked direction on Wednesday, while the dollar remained firm despite lower U.S. Treasury yields as markets assessed mixed signals from U.S. policymakers and economic data on the path for Federal Reserve interest rates.

The yen remained on the back foot even with the threat of currency intervention from Japanese authorities to support it.

Crude oil hovered near two-month lows amid signs of easing supply pressure and continued hopes for a Middle East ceasefire.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 0.19%, weighed down partly by declines from mainland Chinese blue chips. However, Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.52%.

Japan's Nikkei slumped about 1% as traders took profits following the previous session's 1.6% surge. The tech-heavy index also succumbed to pressure from a sell-off in U.S. chip stocks on Tuesday.

U.S. stock futures were flat.

The yen slipped 0.16% to 154.94 per dollar, even as Japan's Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki expressed deep concern over the negative impact of a weak currency and reiterated a readiness to respond to excessive volatility.

The U.S. dollar index - which measures the currency against the yen, euro, sterling and three other major peers - rose 0.09% to 105.51, adding to Tuesday's 0.3% advance.

The euro edged down 0.12% to $1.07325 and sterling lost 0.14% to $1.24915.

On Tuesday, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari suggested the U.S. central bank may need to forgo interest rate cuts this year due to stubborn inflation.

Last week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the wait to loosen policy is taking longer than anticipated, but signalled his inclination is still to cut.

And while prices have been sticky, the labour market showed some signs of weakening in the monthly payrolls data from Friday. Consumer price data in a week from now will be closely watched.

"Debate continues within markets and amongst policymakers about the appropriate level for interest rates," Kyle Rodda, senior financial markets analyst at Capital.com, wrote in a report.

"A lack of major U.S. economic data in the days ahead (means) there was little to position for or react to," he added. "For now, the markets see marginally higher chances for two cuts in the U.S. this year, with the first fully baked in for November."

U.S. long-term Treasury yields stood at 4.4651% in Asian trading, after dipping to a nearly one-month low of 4.42% on Tuesday.

Gold slipped 0.16% to around $2,310 per ounce.

Crude oil extended Tuesday's declines after market sources said that data due later from the American Petroleum Institute will show a jump in U.S. crude and fuel stocks for last week, a sign of lower demand.

Meanwhile, the U.S. believes negotiations on a Gaza ceasefire should be able to close the gaps between Israel and Hamas, lessening the risks of supply disruptions.

Brent crude oil futures fell 32 cents, or 0.38%, to $82.84 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 28 cents, or 0.36%, to $78.10 a barrel.

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Lower-quality debt securities generally offer higher yields, but also involve greater risk of default or price changes due to potential changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Any fixed income security sold or redeemed prior to maturity may be subject to loss.

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