Asia shares slip on inflation, China fears despite US rally
TOKYO — Asian shares were mixed Thursday as optimism over earnings was tempered by persistent concerns about inflation and the Chinese economy, despite an overnight rally on Wall Street.
Shares rose in Tokyo, Sydney and Seoul, but declined in China.
Eyes were on the Bank of Japan, which wrapped up a two-day policy meeting, without any major policy changes, as was widely expected.
The BOJ has not indicated it will follow the lead of other central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, in raising interest rates to curb inflation. Japan has suffered years of stagnation, when deflation or falling prices was a major problem.
“After the strong showing in Wall Street over the past two days, particularly so for tech stocks, markets may take somewhat of a breather. Lingering caution persists for Chinese equities amid both virus and property sector risks,” Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore, said in a commentary.
Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up 0.4% in afternoon trading to 27,803.00. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.4% to 6,784.00. South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.1% to 2,411.86. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.7% to 20,745.35, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.4% to 3,291.77.
A mid-week rally driven by strong corporate earnings appeared to be losing steam, laden by worries over energy supplies in Europe and slowing growth in China.
“Geopolitical concerns around the Russia/Ukraine conflict continue to weigh on markets as the crisis shows no signs of slowing down. Also weighing on sentiment were reports that Google was pausing new hires for two weeks. This is part of an emerging trend where tech giants are hitting the brakes on hiring,” said Anderson Alves at ActivTrades.
“Inflation concerns, ongoing geopolitical uncertainty and lingering caution over the pandemic are adding fuel to recession fears and weighing on the outlook for companies,” he said in a report.
Wall Street ended Wednesday with gains as investors welcomed another batch of encouraging profit reports from U.S. companies.
The S&P 500 rose 0.6% to 3,959.90. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.2% to 31,874.84, while the Nasdaq gained 1.6% to 11,897.65. Smaller company stocks also gained ground. The Russell 2000 climbed 1.6% to 1,827.95.
Profit reporting season is ramping up, with more types of industries offering details about how high inflation and worries about a possible recession are affecting their customers.
For now, traders appear to be encouraged by what they’re hearing. Companies so far have been mostly topping profit expectations. Nasdaq, the company behind its tech-heavy namesake trading exchange, jumped 6.1% after delivering stronger profit and revenue than Wall Street expected.
To counter inflation at four-decade highs, the U.S. Federal Reserve has already hiked rates three times this year, by increasing margins each time. When it meets next week, investors say the only question is if it raises its key rate by another 0.75 percentage points or opts for a mega-hike of a full percentage point.
Such increases to rates make borrowing more expensive, which slows the economy. The hope is that the Federal Reserve and other central banks can deftly find the middle ground where the economy slows enough to whip inflation but not enough to cause a recession.
Some parts of the economy are already slowing because of the rate hikes, particularly the housing industry. A report on Wednesday morning showed that sales of previously occupied homes weakened last month by more than economists expected. Higher mortgage rates are dragging on the industry, along with high prices for homes.
In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude shed 62 cents to $99.24 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It shed 86 cents to $99.88 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international pricing standard, lost 51 cents to $106.41 a barrel.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched down to 138.19 Japanese yen from 138.25 yen. The euro cost $1.0228, up from $1.0179.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.