Asia Pacific stocks mostly higher as Fed unveils new approach to inflation

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Stocks in Asia Pacific traded higher Friday afternoon as investors react to recent developments from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Mainland Chinese stocks recovered from an earlier slip to rise by the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite up 0.51% while the Shenzhen component gained 1.014%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 0.87%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.46% in afternoon trade while the Topix index added 1.07%. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.76%.

The S&P/NZX 50 in New Zealand edged 0.194% higher, with trading resuming after the stock exchange was down for the fourth day in a row following cyber attacks earlier this week. Shares in Australia lagged, as the S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.64%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 0.31%.

Federal Reserve developments

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell announced Thursday a major policy shift by the U.S. central bank to “average inflation targeting.” That means the Fed will allow inflation to run “moderately” above the central bank’s 2% goal “for some time” after periods when it has run below that objective.

The Fed also adjusted its view of full employment to allow gains in the labor market to run more broadly. That indicated that the central bank will be less inclined to raise interest rates when the unemployment rate falls, as long as inflation does not creep up as well.

“All this adds up to a view that the Fed Funds rate  is going nowhere at least until the Fed can look 2%+ inflation in the whites of its eyes,” Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note. “Rates have barely budged at the shorter end of the yield curve, the money market not priced for a first Fed Funds rate rise until about four years from now.”

JPMorgan Asset Managment’s Tai Hui agreed with Attrill’s view, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday that the Fed is “likely to keep its policy rates at a a very low level for an extended period of time even beyond … the recovery … from the pandemic.”

“The fact that it’s average rather than … single-sided, it means that the Fed is gonna keep rates very low. So that will be great for risk assets,” said Hui, who is Asia chief market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 92.805 after touching an earlier low of 92.789.

The Japanese yen traded at 106.84 per dollar after weakening yesterday from levels below 106.4 against the greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7288 after following its rise earlier this week from below $0.72.

— CNBC’s Jeff Cox contributed to this report.

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