TOKYO (AP) – Asian shares fell yesterday after heavy selling of big-name tech stocks pushed benchmarks lower on Wall Street.
Stocks fell in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney but rose in Shanghai. United States (US) futures were lower. Oil prices retreated. The declines came despite a sharp upward revision in Japan’s estimated economic growth rate for the January-March quarter, to 2.7 per cent. That was above what analysts had expected.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 sank 0.9 per cent to 31,641.27. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.3 per cent to 7,099.70. South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.2 per cent to 2,610.85.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged less than 0.1 per cent lower to 19,242.26. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.4 per cent to 3,211.44. Taiwan’s Taiex lost 1.1 per cent, while India’s Sensex gave up 0.2 per cent.
On Wednesday, US stocks drifted to a mixed close as declines for Microsoft and other tech stocks overshadowed gains for much of the rest of the market. It’s a reversal from much of this year, as excitement about artificial intelligence and hopes for an end to interest rate hikes have buoyed the tech sector. The Japanese economy has been recovering since restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic were lifted. The nation has seen a return of tourists, as well as other economic activity.
The focus is now on when Japan’s central bank may move away from the easy monetary policy it’s stuck to for years. In the past year, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) and the world’s other central banks have been raising interest rates. Japan’s benchmark rate is minus 0.1 per cent.
“While a higher growth reading may provide some room to consider a policy exit from the Bank of Japan, the central bank’s stance could remain unmoved for now, with recent comments from the Governor Kazuo Ueda pointing to more wait-and-see,” a market analyst at IG Yeap Jun Rong said in a report.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 0.4 per cent to 4,267.52 even though the majority of stocks within the index rose. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3 per cent to 33,665.02, while the Nasdaq composite fell 1.3 per cent to 13,104.89.
Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia and Alphabet all sank at least three per cent and were the heaviest weights on the S&P 500. Because they’re some of Wall Street’s most valuable stocks, their movements pack extra punch on the index. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks jumped 1.8 per cent to continue its hot streak since a stronger-than-expected report on hiring last week suggested a recession may be further off than feared.
The market in general has climbed for months thanks to a resilient economy that’s managed to defy predictions for a recession. But the threat still looms, and Wall Street is questioning which will come first: a recession or inflation falling enough to get the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates?
Most traders expect the Fed to leave rates steady next week. That would mark the first policy meeting in more than a year where it hasn’t hiked its benchmark rate, which is at its highest level since 2007.