Asian traders were mostly upbeat though expectations for an early US interest rate cut have faded since the start of the year

Hong Kong (AFP) - Stock markets were mixed Monday following a record finish on Wall Street, while hopes for an early US interest rate cut were dealt a fresh blow by Federal Reserve officials looking to rein in investor expectations.

A surge in tech titans including Apple, Amazon, Nvidia and Facebook parent Meta pushed the S&P 500 to its first new all-time high since early 2022 thanks to bets on lower borrowing costs this year.

The rally was helped by a closely watched survey from the University of Michigan showing a surge in consumer confidence and optimism about falling inflation.

However, analysts warned that traders may have run a little ahead of themselves at the end of last year as they forecast the Fed will cut rates up to six times before December, with the first coming in March.

A string of data in recent weeks has shown inflation remains sticky and well above the bank’s two percent target, while the jobs market continues to show resilience despite borrowing costs sitting at two-decade highs.

Minutes from the Fed’s most recent meeting also showed decision-makers were happy to keep monetary policy tight until they are confident prices are under control.

On Friday, San Francisco Fed boss Mary Daly said it was likely too early to think of moving just yet.

“While I think it’s appropriate for us to look forward and ask when would policy adjustments be necessary so we don’t put a stranglehold on the economy, it’s really premature to think that that’s around the corner,” she told Fox Business on Friday.

“Do I get consistent evidence that inflation is coming down, or do I get any early signs with the labour market starting to falter?

“Neither one of those right now is pushing me to think that an adjustment is necessary.”

Atlanta Fed chief Raphael Bostic said that while he was open to changing his mind, he did not expect a tweak until the third quarter, while his Chicago counterpart Austan Goolsbee added that decision-making was “fundamentally about the data”.

The chances of a reduction before the end of the first quarter fell last week to less than 50 percent, having been above 80 percent the week before, Bloomberg News reported.

Tokyo was the main winner again, extending its blockbuster start to the year thanks to a weaker yen and rising Japanese inflation. Traders are awaiting a Bank of Japan policy decision later in the week.

Sydney, Taipei, Manila and Wellington also rose.

However, Shanghai and Hong Kong continued their painful start to the year caused by ongoing weakness in China’s economy and a lack of measures from authorities aimed at kickstarting growth.

Seoul, Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok also fell.

London, Paris and Frankfurt rose at the open.

Oil prices retreated again as Middle East tensions were overshadowed by worries over the global outlook and after the International Energy Agency warned demand growth would halve in 2024.

- Key figures around 0810 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.6 percent at 36,546.95 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 2.3 percent at 14,961.18 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 2.7 percent at 2,756.34 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,491.66

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 148.01 yen from 148.10 yen on Friday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0902 from $1.0898

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2705 from $1.2703

Euro/pound: UP at 85.81 pence from 85.76 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.3 percent at $73.02 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $78.31 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 37,863.80 points (close)