Asian stocks dip ahead of Fed, Hong Kong shares slump

Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks fell on Monday as investors remained broadly risk-off before a string of major central bank rate decisions this week, with the Federal Reserve being the main point of focus.

Regional trading volumes were somewhat muted on account of a Japanese market holiday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was the worst performer among its peers, down 1.6% and in sight of a 10-month low amid renewed selling in property stocks. China Evergrande Group (HK:3333) slid nearly 20% after the embattled developer delayed a decision to restructure its debt.

Some employees of Evergrande’s wealth management unit were also detained in Shenzhen, which fueled concerns over fresh government scrutiny towards the property developer.  

Other property firms- including Country Garden Holdings (HK:2007), Shimao Property Holdings (HK:0813) and Sunac China (HK:1918)- slid between 1.8% and 5%. 

China’s main stock indexes moved in a flat-to-low range, with the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 trading flat, while the Shanghai Composite shed 0.2%. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is also set to decide on its key loan prime rates on Wednesday, although markets expect the bank to leave rates unchanged at record lows.

While the PBOC cut its reserve requirements for local lenders last week, markets have grown increasingly impatient with Beijing’s conservative approach to more stimulus measures, especially given that China has outlined no plans for fiscal support.

This also comes amid signs of continued weakness in the Chinese economy. Concerns over China saw Australia’s ASX 200 sink 0.7%, while major Australian mining stocks also faced pressure from weakness in commodity prices. 

South Korea’s KOSPI shed 0.6%, while most Southeast Asian markets logged small gains. 

Fed meeting, BOJ in focus 

Markets were now focused squarely on a Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday, where the bank is widely expected to keep rates on hold. But the Fed is also expected to retain its hawkish outlook and likely signal higher-for-longer rates. 

Rising U.S. interest rates had heavily pressured Asian markets through the past year, with this pressure set to continue in the coming months. 

Beyond the Fed, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) is also set to meet on Friday, with investor focus largely on a potential pivot away from its negative rate regime. Governor Kazuo Ueda had signaled a potential end to negative interest rates earlier this month. 

Indian stocks on a record spree 

Futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a positive open for the index, after it cleared a series of record highs last week. 

Optimism over the Indian economy- which is among the fastest growing economies in the world this year- has been a key driver of foreign flows into the country, boosting its stock markets.

The BSE Sensex 30 was also trading at record highs, and is likely to rise in tandem with the Nifty on Monday.

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