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Asia stocks mixed after Wall Street gain, Powell warns on rates

BEIJING (AP) – Asian stock markets were mixed yesterday after Wall Street rose and the Federal Reserve chairman said it will raise interest rates further if needed to cool inflation.

Shanghai and Hong Kong declined. Tokyo and Seoul advanced. Oil prices rose to stay above USD110 per barrel.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index rose by an unusually wide daily margin of two per cent after positive United States (US) retail sales data helped to offset concern about inflation.

The Fed will “have to consider moving more aggressively” if inflation that is running at a four-decade high fails to ease after earlier rate hikes, chair Jerome Powell said at a Wall Street Journal conference.

Expectations of rate hikes “ticked higher” due to Powell’s comments, but “markets are shrugging it off and are in need of a breather” after a sell-off, Yeap Jun Rong of IG said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 per cent to 3,082.12 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 0.6 per cent to 20,471.54.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo gained 0.6 per cent to 26,824.46 after the government reported economic output shrank 0.2 per cent in the first three months of 2022. That was stronger than expectations.

A man walks past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index. PHOTO: AP

The Kospi in Seoul gained 0.2 per cent to 2,624.64 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.9 per cent to 7,187.10.

India’s Sensex opened up 0.5 per cent at 54,590.12. Bangkok declined while New Zealand and other Southeast Asian markets rose.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 advanced to 4,088.85. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.3 per cent to 32,654.59. The Nasdaq gained 2.8 per cent to 11,984.52.

Big tech stocks led the rally. Apple and Microsoft were among the biggest winners.

Small-company stocks rose more than the rest of the market, a signal that investors are feeling bullish about the economy. Treasury yields rose.

Investors welcomed a Commerce Department report that showed retail sales rose 0.9 per cent in April.

Consumers are providing critical support to the economy despite higher costs for gas, food and rent. The economy contracted in the first three months of the year, but consumer and business spending still increased at a healthy pace.

The Fed and other central banks are raising interest rates that have been near zero during the coronavirus pandemic or said they plan to in order to cool inflation.

Supply chain problems have prompted businesses to raise prices on everything from food to clothing as demand rebounds after the pandemic.

Oil and gas prices have been pushed up by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which fuelled fears Russian supplies might be disrupted.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude rose USD0.66 to USD113.05 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell USD1.80 on Tuesday to USD112.40.

Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, added USD0.17 to USD112.10 per barrel in London. It lost USD2.31 the previous session to USD111.93.

The dollar declined to JPY129.11 from Tuesday’s JPY129.42. The euro sank to USD1.0536 from USD1.0543.