It’s an old saw that financial markets hate uncertainty. And it appears they hate uncertainty even more than they hate interest rate increases.
All year the US Federal Reserve Bank has been hinting that it plans to raise interest rates and investors around the world have been kept sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for the Fed governors to get off their own seats and do something.
Well, that day is upon us.
Traders are pricing in 76% odds that the Fed will raise rates for the first time since 2006 on Wednesday, reported Bloomberg.
The Fed’s policy board, the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) meets today and everyone expects it will announce a 0.25 percentage point rate hike. Normally, this would be a negative for stocks because it makes it more expensive for companies and consumers to borrow. So more of their cash will go to paying interest rather than new purchases. Also, it makes bonds issued after the rate hike more attractive compared to stocks.
But no one cares, everyone wants the Fed to just get it over with already.
All the US stock indexes were slightly higher. The S&P 500 Index was up just 0.2%.
But more surprising was that Asian stock markets were rising. Japanese stocks rallied from a two-month low. The Topix index saw its first gain in three days, jumping 2.5% to 1,540.72 Wednesday, it’s biggest increase since Sept. 30. Brokerages and automakers led the industry groups.
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average climbed 2.6% to 19,049.91.
It wasn’t all the Fed, The weakening yen, also helped Japan’s stocks. The currency fell 0.25 to 121.86 per dollar after slipping 0.5% on Tuesday, which bodes well for export earnings.
In mainland China, the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index inched up 0.2% to 3,516 and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange Composite Index rose 0.7% to 2,280. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index leapt 2% to 21,701. South Korea’s Kospi climbed 1.9% to 1,969.
The benchmarks in Australia, Taiwan and the rest of Southeast Asia also gained.