Asian Stocks Down, Investors Prep for Volatile Week as Omicron Continues to Spread

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By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Asia Pacific stocks were down on Monday morning, with investors bracing for increased bond-market volatility as the omicron COVID-19 variant continues to spread rapidly.

South Korea’s KOSPI fell 0.99% by 9:01 PM ET (2:01 AM GMT), with the Bank of Korea handing down its latest policy decision on Friday.

In Australia, the ASX 200 inched down 0.05% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.77%.

China’s Shanghai Composite edged down 0.15% and the Shenzhen Component was down 0.31%. Chinese shares were in the spotlight after the country’s Securities Regulatory Commission said it would adopt various measures to avoid volatility and “firmly” prevent big fluctuations after they had the worst start for a year since 2016.

Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

The yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note touched the highest level in nearly two years, while cash treasuries will not be traded in Asia because of the Japanese holiday.

Investors continue to grapple with how to re-price assets as volatility increases and central banks continue to tighten monetary policy. The reported discovery of a new COVID –19 strain, dubbed ‘Deltacron’ for now, is also on the radar.

“The U.S. Federal Reserve needs to tread carefully in removing policy accommodation; it should not happen too fast otherwise it risks a disruption to the rebound in economic growth and could lead to another ‘taper tantrum,’” AMP (OTC:AMLTF) Capital, senior economic Diana Mousina said in a note.

There will be more volatility in 2022 from inflation, Fed rate hikes, and geopolitics as well as U.S. mid-term elections, the note added.

A slew of Fed officials, including Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, Kansas City Fed President Esther George, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, and New York Fed President John Williams will all speak throughout the week.

Meanwhile, incumbent Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Banking Committee for his second term will take place on Tuesday, while the hearing for Lael Brainard, the vice-chair nominee, is on Thursday.

On the data front, China releases its consumer and producer price indexes on Wednesday, while the U.S. releases its own consumer price index later that day. Investors also continue to digest the latest U.S. jobs report, including non-farm payrolls, released last week.

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