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US Fed dilemma puts Asia in a firing line

TOKYO – Everyone in Asia knew America’s epic 2020-21 stock boom couldn’t last.

It was well understood that the run-up, coming amidst a deadly and growth-killing pandemic, had been driven by ultra-aggressive central bank easing, not conventional corporate earnings potential or game-changing innovation.

But that doesn’t mean investors were ready for the correction that appears to be gaining momentum by the day. Those caught off guard include US Federal Reserve officials who’ve been universally expected to rock Asian markets with a series of rate hikes.

On January 1, it was a foregone conclusion among Asian governments that 2022 would be a year of bold Fed monetary tightening. The 7% year-on-year surge in inflation in December in the US cemented the Fed’s pivot toward austerity.