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Asian shares mostly higher after wobbly rally on Wall St

Elaine Kurtenbach

BANGKOK (AP) – Shares were mostly higher in Asia yesterday after United States (US) stocks rallied on heavy buying of technology companies. Advancing Chinese technology shares also pushed Hong Kong sharply higher.

Benchmarks likewise rose in Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney. Shanghai declined. Oil prices remained near USD120 per barrel.

Investors are waiting for more clarity on where interest rates, inflation and economies are heading.

Japan’s economy contracted at a 0.5 per cent annual rate in the first quarter amid a major outbreak of coronavirus, the Cabinet Office reported. That was smaller than the 1.0 per cent contraction in the preliminary estimate. The latest data showed consumer spending and other private demand was not as weak as earlier thought.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.9 per cent to 28,207.55 while the Kospi in South Korea was little changed at 2,625.13. In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.5 per cent to 7,173.33.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 1.7 per cent to 21,897.83 as Chinese technology stocks surged after Beijing approved a new batch of video games. That was seen as a sign the business outlook for tech companies is improving after a prolonged regulatory crackdown.

Tencent, China’s largest games firm, rose 4.7 per cent. E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding soared 8.1 per cent and food delivery concern Meituan advanced 3.6 per cent.

US stocks rallied on Tuesday as Treasury yields eased. The S&P 500 climbed one per cent to 4,160.68 after reversing a morning loss of one per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.8 per cent to 33,180.14 after bouncing between losses and gains throughout the day. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.9 per cent to 12,175.23.

Gains by Apple, Microsoft and other technology stocks were some of the biggest forces lifting the market, as the 10-year Treasury yield fell below three per cent.

Stocks of energy producers also jumped as oil prices rose to roughly USD120 per barrel, up more than 55 per cent for the year so far. Exxon Mobil climbed 4.6 per cent, and ConocoPhillips added 4.5 per cent.

Kohl’s soared 9.5 per cent after the department store chain said it’s in advanced talks to sell itself for about USD8 billion to Vitamin Shoppe owner Franchise Group. Jam maker JM Smucker rose 5.7 per cent after reporting stronger earnings than analysts expected.

Stocks initially fell after Target warned of lower profit margins as it slashes prices to clear out inventory. The retail giant sank 2.3 per cent after it announced moves it said were needed to keep up with customers’ changing behaviours. Other retailers got caught in the downdraft, and Walmart fell 1.2 per cent.

The World Bank sharply cut its forecast for economic growth this year, adding to worries as it pointed to Russia’s war against Ukraine and the possibility of food shortages and the potential return of “stagflation”, a toxic mix of high inflation and sluggish growth unseen for more than four decades.

The economy’s fragility has been atop Wall Street’s mind this year amid worries about interest-rate hikes coming from the Federal Reserve. The central bank is moving aggressively to stamp out the worst inflation in decades, but it risks choking off the economy if it moves too far or too quickly.

The Fed is widely expected to raise its key short-term interest rate by half a percentage point at its meeting next week. That would be the second straight increase of double the usual amount, and investors expect a third in July.

Treasury yields have largely climbed through this year with expectations for a more aggressive Fed. They moderated a bit on Tuesday, though.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell back to 2.98 per cent from 3.03 per cent late Monday. The two-year yield, which more closely tracks expectations for Fed action, dipped more modestly to 2.72 per cent from 2.73 per cent.

The next big update on inflation arrives tomorrow, when the US government releases its latest reading on the consumer price index.

In other trading, benchmark US crude oil added 41 cents to USD119.82 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 91 cents to USD118.50 per barrel on Tuesday.

Brent crude, the standard for international trading, picked up 30 cents to USD120.87 per barrel.

The US dollar was trading at JPY133.13, up from JPY132.61. The euro slipped to USD1.0682 from USD1.0705.

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