Asia Markets Rally Runs Struggles to Maintain Momentum

Tokyo stocks enjoyed fresh gains Tuesday following another strong Wall Street performance but most other Asian markets struggled to maintain momentum as focus turns to Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell's congressional debut.

Equities have been pushing higher since the first week of February saw a plunge that wiped trillions off valuations worldwide, though analysts warn that with prices still high volatility could return.

The S&P 500 on Monday climbed above the level it touched before the sell-off, while the Dow and Nasdaq also climbed more than one percent.

Tokyo ended 1.1 percent higher, Sydney and Wellington each put on 0.2 percent, while Manila and Jakarta also rose.

But profit-taking sent other key markets into negative territory.

Hong Kong fell 0.4 percent, Singapore shed 0.3 percent and Seoul eased 0.1 percent, while Taipei gave back 0.2 percent.

Shanghai slipped more than one percent, though Innes added that Xi Jinping's move to lift term limits on his presidency would be "a boon to regional economic sentiment as it guarantees continued market reforms and staying the course on the (Belt-and-Road) trade-and-infrastructure programme".

This week sees a number of key events, including the release of US economic growth and inflation data.

- Tied hands -But firstly new Fed chief Powell will speak before top congressional committees on Tuesday and Thursday, with his remarks being closely analysed for clues about monetary policy.

Nerves are still raw after the recent sell-off and his views on monetary policy will be closely watched, though many are tipping him to stick to predecessor Janet Yellen's course.

"In some ways his hands are a bit tied," BNP Paribas Asset Management senior economist Steven Friedman told Bloomberg TV.

"The path of least resistance for him is to really stick to the script, which is to reiterate that there is a lot of underlying momentum in the economy, that gives them more confidence in their projections, but ultimately the path of interest rate increases is going to be gradual."

With eyes on Powell, the dollar is struggling against its main peers as well as other higher-risk currencies, despite the euro coming under pressure after the head of the European Central Bank suggested he would be patient in removing crisis era stimulus.

Mario Draghi said there remained some uncertainty in the eurozone's recovery, which could hold back inflation. The comments tempered long-running speculation the ECB will tighten policy as the region's economy improves.

"For now, Draghi is a steady hand on the tiller," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

- Key figures around 0710 GMT - Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 percent at 22,389.86 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 31,374.69

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.1 percent at 3,292.07 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2326 from $1.2317 at 2000 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3970 from $1.3968

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.86 yen from 106.83 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 12 cents at $64.03 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP nine cents at $67.59

New York - DOW: UP 1.6 percent at 25,709.27

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,289.58 (close)

Source: Agence France Presse

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