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SINGAPORE: Japanese rubber futures fell first weekly drop in three, as traders assessed a slowing growth rate in China, U.S. rate-hike fears and a firmer yen.

The Osaka Exchange (OSE) rubber contract for August delivery was down 3 yen, or 1.4%, at 218.6 yen ($1.61) per kg, as of 0221 GMT.

For the week, the benchmark OSE contract slumped about 4.7%. The rubber contract on the Shanghai futures exchange (SHFE) for May delivery was down 225 yuan, or 1.84%, at 12,025 yuan ($1,726.66) per tonne.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei share average opened 0.83% lower. China’s annual consumer inflation slowed to the lowest rate in a year in February as consumers remained cautious despite the easing of stringent pandemic restrictions late last year.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has warned of higher and potentially faster rate hikes, saying the U.S. central bank was wrong in initially thinking inflation was “transitory” and was surprised by the strength of the labour market.

Pulling down traders’ sentiment, Japan’s economy grew a tad slower than initially estimated in the fourth quarter, revised government data showed on Thursday.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.13% to 135.95 per dollar, as of 0224 GMT.

A stronger currency makes yen-denominated assets less affordable when purchased in other currencies.

Falling bank stocks drove Asian markets lower on Friday, while bonds rallied and expectations for U.S. interest rate hikes were reduced after a surprise capital raising at a Silicon Valley startup lender unleashed fears of broader banking-system stress.

The front-month rubber contract on Singapore Exchange’s SICOM platform for April delivery last traded at 132.6 U.S. cents per kg, down 1.5%.

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