Asian shares mixed after rate jitters tumble on Wall Street

·4-min read

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Friday, with only Shanghai rising, after stocks tumbled on Wall Street on expectations central banks will double down on battling inflation with interest rate hikes.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index lost 1.3% to 27,881.78 while the Kospi in Seoul shed 1.2% to 2,593.60. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.9% to 6,956.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.2%, shedding early gains, to 21,828.86.

The Shanghai Composite index added 0.6% to 3,257.59 after the government reported that consumer price inflation remained muted, at 2.1%, in May. That leaves regulators more room to adjust policy to counter a prolonged economic slowdown worsened by widespread restrictions imposed to counter outbreaks of coronavirus.

In another market-related move, the China Security Regulatory Commission issued a statement saying it has not yet evaluated and researched reviving a plan by fintech company Ant’s Group’s to conduct an initial public offering. That countered a report saying approval of the IPO was pending, but the commission said it did support share listings of “qualified platform companies" on domestic and overseas markets.

The government's quashing of Ant's earlier effort to launch an IPO came amid a broad crackdown on big technology companies that has buffeted markets, especially in Hong Kong where many such companies are traded.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 dropped 2.4% and benchmarks across the Atlantic also declined when the European Central Bank said it would raise interest rates next month for the first time in more than a decade. Another hike is set for September, possibly by double July’s increase, and the central bank will also halt its bond-buying program next month.

It's part of a growing global tide where central banks are removing the ultra-low interest rates that supported borrowing, economic growth and stock prices through the pandemic and also flooded the markets with investments seeking higher returns. Now, central banks are focused on slowing growth to quell high inflation.

The risk is that such moves could cause a recession if they’re too aggressive. Even if central banks can pull off the delicate balancing act and avoid a recession, higher interest rates can lead investors to swap shares for other sorts of investments.

The wide expectation is that the Fed will raise its key interest rate next week by half of a percentage point, the second straight increase of double the usual amount. Investors expect a third to hit in July.

Where the Fed goes from there depends on inflation's path, which is why Wall Street is so keyed in on the latest reading for the U.S. consumer price index, which is due Friday morning. Economists expect it to show inflation slowed a touch to 8.2% in May from 8.3% a month earlier.

Investors have been searching for signs that inflation may have already passed its peak, which would be good for markets because it could mean a less aggressive Fed.

The S&P 500 lost 97.95 points to close at 4,017.82, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 1.9% to 32,272.79. The Nasdaq composite tumbled 2.8% to 11,754.23.

European stocks sank immediately following the European Central Bank’s announcement on rates, which came before U.S. markets opened. The CAC 40 index in Paris lost 1.4% and Germany’s DAX lost 1.7%.

A report showed slightly more U.S. workers filed for unemployment last week than economists expected. That’s a potentially negative signal, but the overall number still remains low.

Higher gasoline prices have been putting a tighter squeeze on both companies and households, upping the pressure on budgets. Crude oil prices were down modestly on Thursday, but they remain up by roughly 60% for the year. Much of the jump is due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 66 cents to $120.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up 60 cents to $121.51 on Thursday.

Brent crude oil, the pricing standard for international trading, lost 72 cents to $122.35 per barrel.

In currency dealings, the dollar weakened to 134.13 Japanese yen from 134.35 yen. The euro rose to $1.0634 from $1.0619.

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