New Zealand, Indonesia set rates; Nvidia vigil almost over

By Jamie McGeever

(Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in Asian markets.

Monetary policy decisions from New Zealand and Indonesia are the main points of focus in Asia on Wednesday, as debate over the timing of the first US rate cut ebbs and flows, and lofty equity markets consider their next step.

Asian stocks retreated on Tuesday, snapping a seven-day winning streak despite the relative calm in currency and bond markets. But Wall Street crept higher, with the Nasdaq reaching a new peak ahead of Nvidia’s first-quarter earnings report.

The message on interest rates from a raft of Federal Reserve officials on Tuesday was patience. Indeed, it may be several months before policymakers are confident inflation is really falling back to target, allowing them to start cutting rates.

With many stock markets around the world at record or multi-year highs, a period of cooling may be inevitable. The MSCI Asia ex-Japan index on Tuesday slipped 0.9% – its biggest fall in over a month – while Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.3%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed more than 2%.

After Morgan Stanley’s Mike Wilson rowed back on his long-standing gloomy outlook for Wall Street on Monday, another prominent bear, JP Morgan’s Marko Kolanovic, reiterated his view that US stocks are too expensive and should head south.

He is much more upbeat on Asia, favoring Japanese and Chinese equities over US markets. Japan is attractive because of inflation and monetary policy normalization, while measures to support the housing market, underweight investor positioning and cheap valuations are reasons to buy China.

While the world maintains its vigil ahead of AI darling Nvidia’s results on Wednesday, investors in Asia digest two monetary policy decisions and other potentially exchange rate-moving data, including Japanese trade and South Korean producer price inflation.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Bank Indonesia are both expected to leave their key interest rates on hold, at 5.50% and 6.25%, respectively, according to Reuters polls.

The RBNZ is only expected to cut its cash rate once this year, and probably not until the final quarter. Money markets are a bit more dovish, and are currently pricing in 45 basis points of easing by year-end.

After stunning markets last month with an unexpected rate hike to support the rupiah, Bank Indonesia (BI) is expected to keep its seven-day reverse repurchase rate at 6.25% and hold it there for several months, or until the Fed cuts US rates.

In a rare media briefing earlier this month, BI Governor Perry Warjiyo said current data shows there is no need to raise rates again, and the central bank is trying to strengthen the rupiah beyond 16,000 per dollar.

The rupiah closed trading on Tuesday at 15,990 per dollar.

Here are key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Wednesday:

– New Zealand monetary policy decision

– Indonesia monetary policy decision

– Japan trade (April)

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Bill Berkrot)