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Asia-Pacific markets mostly higher as investors look ahead to Powell's congress testimony

This is CNBC's live blog covering Asia-Pacific markets.

The full moon, otherwise known as a strawberry supermoon, is seen over the Skyline of the CBD in Sydney, Australia June 15, 2022.
Steven Saphore | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Asia-Pacific shares were mixed as traders looked ahead to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's congressional testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday, which will inform the central bank's next moves on its rate-hiking decision.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.49% higher to end at 7,364.7. The RBA raised its overnight cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.6%, which would mark the highest rate since June 2012. The country also posted a narrow trade surplus for January, according to official data.

Japan's Nikkei 225's rose 0.25% to 28,309.16 while the Topix added 0.40% to close at 2,044.98. South Korea's Kospi inched up fractionally to 2,463.35 while the Kosdaq slipped 0.09% to 815.76.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index traded 0.66% lower. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite lost 1.11% while the Shenzhen Component was down 1.978%.


Philippines' inflation showed signs of easing as consumer price index for February rose 8.6% year-on-year, based on official data.

China will post its trade data later in the day. Thailand's inflation data is also slated for release.

Overnight in the U.S., stocks largely held onto gains as the Dow notched a four-day win streak. Powell is set to appear before Congress with the task of convincing legislators that he's committed to bringing down inflation while not dragging the economy down.

The RBA has 'done enough and should now pause,' says AMP

The Reserve Bank of Australia has "done enough and should now pause," and continuing to raise rates carries the risk of plunging the economy into a recession, wrote AMP in a daily not, after RBA's decision to hike its cash rate by 25 basis points.

In a separate note, Commonwealth Bank of Australia's Gareth Aird, said he expects one more run of rate hike.

"We expect one further 25bp rate hike, likely to be delivered at the April Board meeting, for a peak in the cash rate of 3.85%," he wrote in a note, adding that monetary policy will still be steeped in restrictive territory.

The upcoming February labor force survey next week will be an important data the RBA will be assessing ahead of the meeting.

—Lee Ying Shan

China's exports and imports fall as trade surplus beats expectations

China saw its exports fall by 6.8% in February, declining less than expectations of a 9.4% drop, according to economists surveyed by Reuters. The drop was also less than the previous month's fall of 9.9%.

Imports also fell 10.2%, down more than expectations to see a drop of 5.5% on an annualized basis and a further decline from the previous month's contraction of 7.5%.

The economy's trade surplus in U.S. dollar terms were at $116.88 billion, higher than expected and an increase from the previous month's surplus of $78 billion.

— Jihye Lee

CNBC Pro: U.S. stocks are on a 'suckers' rally' and a big pullback is possible, chief investment officer says

The recent rise in stocks is a "sucker's rally," according to chief investment officer Peter Toogood.

The CIO of U.K.-based financial services company Embark Group said he now expects a pullback in U.S. equities, after the S&P 500 rose by 14% since the start of October.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Ganesh Rao

Australia hikes rates by 25 basis points

The Reserve Bank of Australia raised its cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.60%, in line with expectations, according to a release by the central bank.

"Global inflation remains very high. In headline terms it is moderating, although services price inflation remains elevated in many economies," the RBA said in its release.

The Australian dollar strengthened marginally to 0.6725 against the U.S. dollar shortly after the decision.

— Jihye Lee

Most tech roles in Singapore saw salary jumps in 2022: new report

Wages across most tech roles jumped in 2022 even as companies laid off workers and hiring slowed down, according to a report by salary database Nodeflair and venture capital firm Iterative.

Blockchain, mobile and site reliability engineers saw the highest wage increases, while salaries of software engineers hit a record high, data from the Tech Salary Report 2023 showed.

Most companies pay higher 10% or more than the median wage, with 40% of them paying 20% more than the average.

"The outlook for 2023 in the tech talent and hiring market is expected to show a continued demand for tech talents, although at a slower rate compared to the past few years," said the report.

— Sheila Chiang

Philippines' inflation shows signs of easing

Philippines' annual inflation data for February rose 8.6% year-on-year, showing slight signs of easing from January's reading of 8.7%, but still remained at high levels.

The figure came in lower than Reuters' expectations of a 8.8% rise, due to a relatively lower rate of inflation in the transport sector, according to a report by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco remained key drivers of the high inflation rate.

The country's core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, rose to 7.8% in February, compared to 7.4% in January.

—Lee Ying Shan

Major cryptos fall as investors weigh Silvergate's potential bankruptcy

Major cryptocurrencies bitcoin and ether fell in early Asia trade following news of crypto-friendly bank Silvergate Capital's potential bankruptcy and its suspension of its crypto payments network.

Bitcoin was down 0.18% to trade at $22,421.4, while Ether fell 0.22% to $1,564.65 according to CoinDesk data.

Silvergate's shares plunged 60% last week after the company delayed the filing of its annual report, citing financial challenges associated with the undoing of its former customer FTX.

— Lee Ying Shan

CNBC Pro: We're in another bear market rally, investor says, naming the stocks and more to trade it

New bull market or yet another bear market rally? Veteran investor Michael Landsberg is in the latter camp.

"Patience, as well as careful individual stock selection, is key going forward," says veteran investor Michael Landsberg, naming several opportunities still present in the market.

Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Zavier Ong

Australia sees narrowed trade balance in January

Australia saw a narrowed trade surplus of 11.7 billion Australian dollars in January, a decline from the previous month.

Goods and services imports grew by 5% after seeing a 1% growth in December — while exports for January rose by 1%, also a rise from a decline of 1% in the previous period.

The Australian dollar slightly strengthened to 0.6729 against the greenback.

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— Jihye Lee

CNBC Pro: Citi sees chip stocks hitting 'new lows.' Here are its top picks to ride out the storm

Although chip stocks have broadly rebounded this year, Citi warns that they could be about to hit new lows as companies trim guidance.

Given its bearish stance, the bank identifies one buy-rated stock as the "most defensive name" and a number of others it says offer the most upside once the downturn is over.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Weizhen Tan

Reserve Bank of Australia expected to hike 25 basis points Tuesday

The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to hike its overnight cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.6%, according to economists surveyed by Reuters.

That would mark the highest rate since June 2012, when Australia's cash rate stood at 3.75%.

Matt Simpson, senior market analyst at City Index, noted the tone of the central bank's statement could determine how much further the RBA would hike rates to tame inflation.

Pointing to the RBA's statement of needing further increases in rates "over the months ahead," Simpson said, "Any adjustments to the wording of this sentence could be the difference between one or two more hikes from here."

"A further increase over the months ahead would suggests one more hike is to follow, with a terminal rate at 3.85%," he said.

— Jihye Lee

Apple extends 3-day rally to as much as $11 or 7.6%

Apple is having an outsized influence on the S&P 500 Monday because, well, — Apple is outsized (with a $2.47 trillion market value, Apple is the single largest stock and accounts for 6.82% of the entire index.)

In late morning trading Monday, Apple alone added about a point to the S&P 500's advance. Together with Microsoft and Amazon and Alphabet, the four combined to add almost two points.

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Apple year to date 2023

Apple extended its latest advance to three days, during which it's climbed about $11 per share or 7.6%, just since the market close on Wednesday March 1.

A new analyst at Goldman Sachs on Monday began research coverage of Apple with a buy rating and a $199 price target, saying Apple could get a big boost from its services business.

According to FactSet data, Apple is 13% below its 52-week high reached last March 30, 2022, but 26% above the 52-week low that it touched last January 3, 2023.

Month-to-date, Apple is about 5.8% higher, bringing the year-to-date gain to a shade above 20%. The iPhone maker is trading about 10% above its 50-day moving average, and sports a consensus price target among analysts of $169 -- representing potential upside of almost 9%.

— Scott Schnipper

Morgan Stanley names Ferrari its top pick, replacing Tesla

Morgan Stanley replaced Tesla as its firm-wide top pick with Ferrari.

Analyst Adam Jonas increased Ferrari's price target by $30 to $310, implying the stock could rally 14.2% over the next year. He said the carmaker's defensiveness and hard-to-replicate luxury brand would be assets in amid a changing economic backdrop.

"We believe RACE is the best positioned company in our coverage in a highly uncertain macroeconomic and geopolitical tape," he said in a note to clients Monday. "In addition to its strong fundamentals, we believe RACE has levers to pull for both growth or downside protection, within a wide dispersion of macro outcomes."

He also said the stock "avoids much of the EV hype and EV risk." Still, he said the company had an underappreciated opportunity in the space as it could move away from internal combustion engines without losing the core of the brand.

Ferrari shares gained about 1%, while Tesla dipped about 1%.

— Alex Harring

Tesla shares fall following vehicle price cuts

Tesla's stock slipped 1% after the electric vehicle maker implemented price cuts on its two most expensive models in the U.S. to improve demand.

Following the price cuts, the Tesla Model S now starts at $89,990, according to Tesla's website. That's about 5% below its previous price. The Model X, meanwhile, begins at $99,990, representing a 9% reduction in cost.

— Ryan Browne, Samantha Subin