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Asian stocks follow Wall St lower after Fed rates signal

BEIJING (AP) – Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower yesterday after investors saw minutes from a Federal Reserve meeting as a sign the United States (US) central bank might hike interest rates faster to cool inflation.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney retreated. Oil prices fell.

On Wednesday, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index fell by its biggest daily margin in
four months.

Notes released yesterday from the Fed meeting last month showed policymakers believe the US job market is nearly healthy enough that ultra-low interest rates are no longer needed.

Traders took that as a sign the Fed might be more aggressive about rolling back stimulus that is boosting stock prices.

The report “bludgeoned the markets” by upsetting expectations that earlier Fed plans were locked in, said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report.

People walking by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

The Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.7 per cent to 3,571.18 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo tumbled 2.1 per cent to 28,721.49. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.6 per cent to 22,774.93.

The Kospi in Seoul retreated 0.4 per cent to 2,942.54 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 sank 1.5 per cent to 7,449.80. New Zealand and Jakarta declined while Singapore and Bangkok gained.

The Fed indicated in mid-December that plans to wind down stimulus would be accelerated after US consumer inflation hit a 39-year high.

That jolted investors who had been encouraged by stronger corporate profits and the spread of coronavirus vaccinations. Despite that, the S&P 500 ended 2021 with a 26.9 per cent annual gain.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 slid 1.9 per cent on Wednesday to 4,700.58.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1 per cent to 36,407.11, pulling back from the previous day’s record. The Nasdaq composite tumbled 3.3 per cent to 15,100.17 in its biggest one-day decline in 11 months.

Bond yields, or the difference between the day’s market price and the payout at maturity, widened after the Fed notes came out.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for setting rates on mortgages and other loans, rose to 1.70 per cent from 1.68 per cent.

The Fed minutes showed policymakers expressed concern that inflation was spreading into more areas of the economy and would last longer than expected. They discussed the possible need to raise short-term interest rates at a quicker pace and allow bond purchases that inject money into the financial system to decline sooner.

Four out of five stocks in the S&P 500 fell. Tech companies were the biggest drag on the market. Microsoft fell 3.8 per cent and software maker Adobe shed 7.1 per cent.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude lost 76 cents to USD77.09 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 86 cents to USD77.85 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, sank 86 cents to USD79.94 per barrel in London. It rose 80 cents the previous session to USD80.80.

The dollar declined to JPY115.93 from Wednesday’s JPY116.16. The euro advanced to EUR1.1317 from EUR1.1311.