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Asian stocks rise on optimism ahead of central bank rate decisions

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SINGAPORE — Asian stock markets were buoyed on Tuesday by overnight optimism on Wall Street that the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks would ease off on the pace at which interest rates have been hiked to tackle the highest inflation levels in decades.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.17% while Japan’s Nikkei and Seoul’s KOSPI index were 0.32% and 0.01% higher respectively. Australian shares rose 0.34%.

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A key focus for traders was U.S. inflation data due out at 1330 GMT on Tuesday, with core CPI expected to slow from 6.3% to 6.1% and headline inflation dropping to 7.3%. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen struck a cautious note on Sunday in saying she expected a substantial slowdown in 2023 inflation, but that the U.S. economy remained prone to shocks.

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Later this week, the Fed, European Central Bank and the Bank of England are all expected to raise rates by 50 basis points (bps), rather than the aggressive 75 bps hikes they approved earlier in the year.

“Given the very close proximity (of U.S. CPI data) to the FOMC, it clearly has the ability to change the tone of the message … but is highly unlikely to change the headline 50 bps hike,” Deutsche Bank said in a research note.

Chinese stocks were expected to be flat on Tuesday as a rapid COVID-19 surge in the world’s biggest economy is raising worries that infections might disrupt consumption and manufacturing.

The dollar was firm, rising 0.8% versus the yen overnight and steady at 137.62 yen in early Asia trade on Tuesday. It also held onto gains on the Australian dollar at $0.6756.

Oil prices were higher after jumping on Monday due to supply jitters, with Brent crude futures up 0.28% at $78.21 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude up 0.51% at $73.54 a barrel.

Spot gold was steady at $1,781.66 per ounce, while U.S. gold futures were up 0.1% at $1,793.40.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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