US Federal Reserve ended the FOMC meetings by raising its benchmark interest rate by another 25 basis points and signaled two more hikes this year, on the back of strong employment data and noting that inflation is moving towards its target. In line with general market’s expectations, Wall Street responded with all three benchmark indices closing higher after the announcement. Over the fortnight, Nasdaq gained 0.7 percent to close at 5,900.76 while S&P 500 remained flat at 2,381.38. Dow Jones Industrial Average, however, lost 0.3 percent due to profit taking to close at 20,934.55.
Looking at the commodity sector, WTI crude oil tanked more than five percent last week breaking the critical psychological support at US$50 per barrel. The plunge came after the US Energy Information Administration reported a much larger than expected increase in domestic crude inventories by 8.2 million barrels. Consequently, concerns regarding the persistence of a supply glut were raised despite a concerted effort among OPEC members and Russia to restrict output in a deal agreed last November.
Over in Asia, we see a positive spillover effect following Fed’s decision and subsequent rally of the US equities. The absence of uncertainty led to better performances of Asia’s major indices. Nikkei rose 0.3 percent to close at 19,521.59. Likewise, Hang Seng Index grew 3.2 percent to close at 24,309.93, while Shanghai Composite Index climbed 0.6 percent to finish at 3,237.45.
On the local scene, Singapore government announced on 10 March its intent to ease some property market cooling measures by cutting the seller’s stamp duty and relaxing the total debt servicing ratio framework. The surprising move led to heightened optimism that property prices could have bottomed, and saw locally listed developers registering substantial returns on that trading day. Over the last two weeks, FTSE ST Real Estate Holding and Development Index jumped 5.9 percent whereas Singapore’s Straits Times Index advanced 1.5 percent to close at 3,169.38.
In the upcoming couple of weeks, investors may want to keep a close eye on the status of US Congress to raise debt limit, with current suspension on debt ceiling expiring in March 2017.