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Markets update — Yen fell, Mining stocks gain, wheat rises, corn and soybean ease

RIYADH: Gains in banks, energy, and mining stocks lifted Asian equities slightly higher on Tuesday as investors braced for aggressive US rate hikes and war disrupting oil supplies.

The yen fell through the psychological 120 level against the dollar for the first time since 2016, and Treasuries extended losses after the US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Monday flagged a more aggressive tightening of monetary policy than previously anticipated.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent, led by gains in Australia’s miner-and-bank heavy index, which hit a two-month high.

Gold prices steady

Gold prices held steady on Tuesday as US Treasury yields hit multi-year highs following an aggressive inflation stance by the Federal Reserve chairman, while an intensifying conflict between Russia and Ukraine supported bids for the safe-haven metal. 

Spot gold was flat at $1,936.82 per ounce by 0347 GMT. 

US gold futures were up 0.4 percent at $1,937.30.

Supply worries: Wheat up, corn and soybean ease

Chicago wheat futures rose more than one percent on Tuesday. The market gained a second session as expectations of a protracted Russia-Ukraine war heightened concerns over global supplies.

Corn and soybeans ticked lower, giving up some of the last session’s substantial gains.

The most-active wheat contract on the Chicago Board of Trade added 1.5 percent to $11.36 a bushel, as of 0053 GMT, having climbed more than 5 percent on Monday.

Corn lost 0.3 percent to $7.54-1/4 a bushel, and soybeans percent gave up 0.2 percent to $16.87-3/4 a bushel. 

Russia exports more wheat via the Black Sea

Russia is exporting more wheat via its Black Sea ports as Azov Sea routes remain restricted, analysts said on Monday, while domestic prices for the grain rose last week because of the weakening rouble.

“Exports are active. If the weather permits – it is currently unstable in the Black Sea due to strong wind – Russia will export more than 2 million tons of wheat in March,” said Dmitry Rylko, the head of the IKAR agriculture consultancy.

IKAR said prices for wheat with 12.5 percent protein content from the Black Sea ports were at $390 per ton free on board, although Rylko noted there were few new deals in recent days.

Fed to raise more rates aggressively 

On Monday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell delivered his most muscular message to date on his battle with too-high inflation, saying the central bank must move “expeditiously” to raise rates and possibly “more aggressively” to keep an upward price spiral from getting entrenched.

In remarks that sent financial markets scrambling to recalibrate for a higher probability of the Fed lifting interest rates by a half-percentage point at one or more of its remaining meetings this year, Powell signaled an urgency to the central bank’s inflation challenge that was less visible than just a week ago, when the Fed delivered its first rate hike in three years.

“The labor market is very strong, and inflation is much too high,” Powell told a National Association for Business Economics conference. 

“There is an obvious need to move expeditiously to return the stance of monetary policy to a more neutral level and then move to more restrictive levels if that is required to restore price stability.” 

 

(With inputs from Reuters) 

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