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Asian stocks fall on US rate uncertainty; Nikkei slammed by BOJ bets

Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks fell on Monday, tracking a weak lead-in from Wall Street as anticipation of key U.S. inflation data kept markets on edge, while Japanese shares fell sharply amid growing conviction that the Bank of Japan will raise interest rates soon.

Regional markets fell tracking a sharp decline in Wall Street on Friday, as growing uncertainty over U.S. interest rates saw traders lock-in profits at record highs, especially in the technology sector. 

Stronger-than-expected nonfarm payrolls data also factored into concerns over higher for longer interest rates, putting an upcoming reading on consumer price index inflation squarely in focus. 

U.S. stock futures were flat in Asian trade after recouping earlier losses. 

Japanese shares tumble as BOJ pivot appears imminent 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was by far the worst performer in Asia on Monday, sliding 2.3% as a slew of reports indicated that the BOJ was close to ending its ultra-loose policies.

The broader TOPIX index shed nearly 2%, as both indexes fell further from record highs hit last week. 

Media reports said the BOJ could raise interest rates and end its stimulative yield curve control policies by as soon as a meeting next week, especially amid expectations of higher Japanese wages and inflation. 

An upward revision in Japan’s GDP also showed that the economy avoided a recession in the  fourth quarter. Resilience in the economy gives the BOJ more headroom to immediately begin raising interest rates. 

The BOJ is now set to meet on March 18 and 19, with Reuters reports saying that a hike could come either then or during a late-April meeting. 

China stock losses held back by some improvement in inflation

Chinese stocks fared somewhat better than their peers on Monday, encouraged by stronger-than-expected consumer inflation data released over the weekend.

The Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 rose 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.2%. Gains in mainland stocks saw Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rise 0.9%. 

Data over the weekend showed Chinese consumer inflation grew slightly more than expected in February, aided by increased spending during the Lunar New Year.

But producer inflation fell more than expected, signaling that Chinese factory activity still remained under pressure. This notion limited any major upside in Chinese shares. 

Broader Asian markets retreated. Australia’s ASX 200 index slid 1.5%, seeing a heavy degree of profit-taking after reaching record highs last week.

South Korea’s KOSPI fell 0.4%, while futures for India’s Nifty 50 index pointed to a weak open, after the index and the BSE Sensex 30 cleared record highs last week. 

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