Asian markets falter ahead of key central bank decisions

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Asian markets falter ahead of key central bank decisions
Credit: © Reuters.

Investors in Asian stock markets adopted a cautious stance on Monday, as they await several significant central bank rate decisions set to take place this week. The forthcoming meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve is particularly in focus.

Trading volumes in the region saw a slight decrease due to a public holiday in Japan. Among the affected markets, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index took the most significant hit, slipping 1.6% and nearing a 10-month low. This decline was primarily driven by renewed selling activity within the property sector.

China Evergrande (HK: 3333 ) Group, a troubled property developer, witnessed its shares tumble almost 20% following its announcement to delay decisions on debt restructuring. Adding to investor anxieties, some employees of Evergrande's wealth management division were detained in Shenzhen, sparking concerns about increased government scrutiny.

Other real estate firms including Country Garden Holdings, Shimao Property Holdings, and Sunac China also suffered losses ranging from 1.8% to 5%.

In mainland China, stock indexes mostly remained in a flat-to-low range. The Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 was unchanged while the Shanghai Composite fell slightly by 0.2%. The People's Bank of China (PBOC) is set to make its decision on key loan prime rates this Wednesday, but market participants generally anticipate that the rates will remain at their record lows.

Despite recent attempts by the PBOC to stimulate the economy by lowering reserve requirements for local lenders, market sentiment has become increasingly restless due to Beijing's restrained approach towards additional stimulus measures. This frustration has been further exacerbated by the absence of any outlined plans for fiscal support from China's government.

These developments are unfolding amid ongoing signs of an economic slowdown in China. These concerns have had ripple effects on other markets as well, with Australia's ASX 200 declining by 0.7%. Major Australian mining stocks also struggled due to weak commodity prices.

South Korea's KOSPI decreased by 0.6%, while most markets in Southeast Asia recorded minor gains.

Investors worldwide are now shifting their focus to the Federal Reserve's meeting on Wednesday. Although the bank is expected to maintain current rates, it is also likely to uphold its hawkish outlook, potentially indicating a longer period of higher rates.

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