Asian Equities Mixed as Latest US Data Supports Hawkish Fed’s Powell

Shares in Asia and the Pacific region were mostly up on Thursday, following a volatile US session that saw key benchmarks post moderate gains as a slew of economic data overnight looked to back up Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s hawkish comment on further interest rate hikes.

As of 9.27 A.M. (Thai time), Japan’s Nikkei 225′s was up 0.64%. The Kospi in South Korea slipped 0.25%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index inched up fractionally. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.1%.

U.S. stock market indexes ended the day mixed as traders digested stronger-than-expected economic statistics that sparked fears of further rate increases after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech to Congress.

According to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday, the number of job openings in the United States declined in January but remained high and still outweigh available employees by about a 2:1 ratio.

The overall number of open positions for the month was 10.824 million, down by almost 410,000 from the previous month but still higher than the FactSet prediction of 10.58 million.

The figures reflect a historically tight labor market in which open jobs exceed those classified unemployed by a 1.9-to-1 margin.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he still hasn’t decided what the central bank would do at its meeting in March in terms of interest rates.

Powell told the House Financial Services Committee that he and his colleagues will be reviewing a slew of incoming inflation data, such as reports on consumer and producer prices, in the coming week.

“They’re going to be important in our assessment of the higher readings that we very recently have received and the overall direction of the economy and of our progress in bringing inflation down,” the Fed leader said.