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TOKYO: Japanese rubber futures rose on Wednesday after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sounded less hawkish than expected in his testimony to Congress, while producer inflation data showed more room for policy easing in top buyer China.

The Osaka Exchange’s rubber contract for June delivery finished 3.8 yen, or 1.6%, higher at 243.3 yen ($2.1) per kg.

The rubber contract on the Shanghai futures exchange for May delivery gained 110 yuan to finish at 15,090 yuan ($2,371) per tonne, after hitting a near 6-week high of 15,135 yuan earlier in the session.

Powell told a congressional hearing on his confirmation for a second term at the helm of the central bank that the economy could weather the COVID-19 surge and was ready for tighter monetary policy.

China’s producer prices rose slower than expected in December after government measures to contain high raw material prices, official data showed, leaving room for easing monetary policy.

China’s auto sales last year grew for the first time since 2017, industry data showed, boosted partly by a jump of 1.5 times in sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs).

Still, investors remained cautious as Japan recorded a surge in new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with infections reaching four-month highs in the major metropolitan areas of Tokyo and Osaka as the Omicron variant spreads.

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