UBS Sees Fed Hiking Twice While Asia Central Banks Pause in 2019 - EcoFinBiz Blog

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UBS Sees Fed Hiking Twice While Asia Central Banks Pause in 2019

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(Bloomberg) -- UBS Global Wealth Management reckons the U.S. Federal Reserve may raise interest rates twice in 2019 despite markets pricing in little chance of that happening.

A growing U.S. economy and low recession risk may provide opportunities for the Fed to ratchet up borrowing costs, said Min Lan Tan, head of the chief investment office for Asia Pacific in Singapore. Still, that’s unlikely to spur many Asian central banks to adopt a similar tightening pace, after policy makers from Indonesia to India raised rates last year to combat routs sparked by the Fed’s four hikes, rising Treasury yields and a stronger dollar.

“Global inflation will remain low enough for policy tightening to remain gradual, so the Fed could hike twice,” Tan said at a conference Monday. “And in this context, actually, most of Asia policy tightening is done -- in fact, China is in easing mode.”

UBS isn’t the only firm to say markets may be too aggressive in dismissing the likelihood of any hikes from the Fed this year. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. still see two increases, while Loomis Sayles & Co. says the U.S. central bank may tighten monetary policy once.

Although the median projection of Fed officials is for two quarter-point hikes in 2019, fed funds futures currently don’t price in even one increase. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell signaled last week that the U.S. central bank can be patient before adjusting interest rates again as it waits to see how global risks impact the domestic economy.

While monetary policy may have stabilized in Asia, UBS still sees “key uncertainties” brewing in the region -- upcoming regional elections and the U.S.’s ongoing trade war with China to name a few, said Tan.

“Our base case is that sufficient progress will be made to delay further tariff escalation, but substantive issues will remain,” Tan said.

Here are UBS’s investment views for 2019:

  • It’s unlikely China will massively depreciate the yuan, sell U.S. Treasuries or overtly punish U.S. companies operating there as the nation needs to maintain stability and attract foreign direct investment
  • Overweight Asian equities, which are forecast to return 12 to 15 percent in 2019, with a preference for stocks in China, Singapore, Korea and Indonesia
  • Dollar strength will fade, providing a more supportive environment for Asian risk assets
  • Likes Asian high-yield credit, which is predicted to return 5 to 6 percent this year
  • Asian currencies may weaken in first quarter before ending 2019 where they are today
  • Short the Korean won against the dollar to hedge against overweight position in Asia equities, slowing exports in the region

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruth Carson in Singapore at rliew6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tan Hwee Ann at hatan@bloomberg.net, Joanna Ossinger, Nicholas Reynolds

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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