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SINGAPORE: Japanese rubber futures opened lower on Wednesday, as traders braced themselves for more volatility ahead on hints of looming rate hikes, although higher crude prices helped limit some losses.

The Osaka Exchange’s (OSE) rubber contract for September delivery was down 1.3 yen, or 0.6%, at 209.2 yen ($1.59) per kg as of 0215 GMT.

The Shanghai futures exchange (SHFE) is closed for the Qingming Festival and trading will resume on Thursday.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei average opened down 0.62%. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President Loretta Mester said on Tuesday the US central bank likely has more interest rate rises ahead amid signs that the recent banking sector troubles have been contained.

Still, oil prices rose in early Asian trade on Wednesday on anticipated US crude inventory declines and OPEC+’s latest output cut targets.

The natural rubber market is helped by stronger oil prices as manufacturers are incentivised to shift away from synthetic rubber that is derived from oil, driving natural rubber prices higher.

Stocks struggled to make headway on Wednesday, the dollar nursed losses and bonds clung to gains, as signs of a slowing US labour market made investors nervous about the economic outlook, while a bigger than expected rate hike lifted the kiwi dollar.

The front-month rubber contract on Singapore Exchange’s SICOM platform for April delivery last traded at 134.0 US cents per kg, down 0.1%.

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