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Japan's Nikkei 225 leads gains in Asia markets as investors await central bank meeting outcomes; China data on tap

·4 mins

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index led gains in Asia-Pacific markets on Monday, ahead of a week full of central bank meetings, while investors awaited a slew of economic data from China.

The U.S. Federal Reserve will start its Federal Open Market Committee meeting on Tuesday. A Reuters poll of economists is expecting the Fed to hold its benchmark interest rates steady at 5.25% to 5.5%.

In Asia, the Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to keep its cash rate steady at 4.35% when it concludes its meeting on Tuesday.

In contrast, a Reuters poll expects the Bank of Japan to exit its negative interest rate policy and lift its benchmark rate to 0% from -0.1% when it makes its announcement on Tuesday.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 2%, while the Topix climbed 1.56%.

In Europe, the Bank of England is expected to keep rates unchanged at 5.25%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.17%.

South Korea’s Kospi was 0.35% higher after recording an almost 2% loss on Friday, while the small-cap Kosdaq was up 1.29%.

The Taiwan Weighted index opened 0.5% higher, with shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company up 0.9%.

Futures for Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index stood at 16,752, pointing to a stronger open compared to the HSI’s close of 16,720.89.

China is set to release a slew of economic data on Monday, including its February retail sales, industrial output, and urban unemployment numbers.

On Friday in the U.S., all three indexes fell on Friday as inflation concerns remain front and center ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting.

The S&P 500 lost 0.65%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.49%, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.96%.

Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports fell 0.1% year over year in February, according to official data.

Singapore NODX fell compared with Reuters poll expectations of a 4.7% rise in February.

“NODX declined over the year, mainly due to non-electronics [food preparations, specialty chemicals & electrical circuit apparatus],” the statement read, whereas electronics exports grew.

The reading follows a 16.7% rise in January.

In the next decade, companies using technology to disrupt sectors will likely be favored, according to UBS.

The “next big thing” in tech will come from sectors such as enabling tech — which includes artificial intelligence and cybersecurity — as well as healthtech, greentech and fintech, UBS said.

“Collectively, we see industry leaders for 2030 emerging from these sectors,” said UBS in a March 14 report.

While chip darling Nvidia has grabbed headlines for its impressive stock performance, driven by excitement around artificial intelligence, an under-the-radar European company has quietly seen its shares nearly double in 2024.

The small-cap firm, with sales totaling 52 million euros ($56 million) in the first half of last year, recently bagged a €300 million contract. It also just had its 150 patents valued at $835 million.

Crude oil futures fell slightly Friday but gained for the week after rising in the two previous sessions.

The West Texas Intermediate contract for April fell 22 cents, or 0.27%, to settle at $81.04 a barrel. The Brent contract for May lost 8 cents, or 0.09%, to settle at $85.34 a barrel.

Consumer sentiment was little changed in March though it was slightly below what Wall Street had expected, according to a closely watched University of Michigan survey released Friday.

The Survey of Consumers posted a reading of 76.5, down 0.4 points from February and missing the Dow Jones consensus estimate for 77.4.

Inflation expectations were unchanged at both the one- and five-year horizons, at 3% and 2.9% respectively. The current conditions index also was unchanged at 79.4.

“After strong gains between November 2023 and January 2024, consumer views have stabilized into a holding pattern; consumers perceived few signals that the economy is currently improving or deteriorating,” said the survey’s director. Hsu added that consumers are “withholding judgment” until the November presidential election.

Cryptocurrency holders on the east coast woke up to a lot of red on their screens on Friday.

Bitcoin was trading above $72,000 late Thursday night, but suffered a steep drop and is now hovering near $67,000. That is a decline of about 7%.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the selloff. CEO Kris Marszalek told CNBC that the selling pressure was likely coming from the options market.