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Asian stocks lower after Fed confirms rate hike plans

BEIJING (AP) – Major global stock markets were mostly lower yesterday after notes from the United States (US) Federal Reserve’s latest meeting confirmed expectations of more interest rate hikes but held no surprises to rattle investors.

London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney declined. Frankfurt and Shanghai gained. Oil prices rose.

Investors are uneasy over the impact of interest rate hikes in the US and other Western economies to cool surging inflation.

Wednesday’s Fed release showed board members support 0.5-percentage-point hikes at their next two meetings. That will weigh on economic activity but already was factored into stock prices.

There were no “hawkish or dovish surprises” or mentions of a bigger increase, Anderson Alves of ActivTrades said in a report.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London lost 0.1 per cent to 7,516.42 while Frankfurt’s DAX gained 0.4 per cent to 14,057.88. The CAC in Paris advanced 0.3 per cent to 6,320.42.

On Wall Street, the future for the benchmark S&P 500 index was off 0.1 per cent and that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was little-changed.

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

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 index rose 0.9 per cent after from this month’s Fed meeting showed board members agreed half-point rate hikes “would likely be appropriate”. That would be double the usual margin of increases.

The Dow gained 0.6 per cent and the Nasdaq composite climbed 1.5 per cent.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5 per cent to 3,123.11 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 0.3 per cent to 26,604.84. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 0.3 per cent to 20,116.20.

The Kospi in Seoul declined 0.2 per cent to 2,612.45 after the South Korean central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percentage points to 1.75 per cent.

“With price pressures set to remain elevated in the near term, we expect the Bank to continue hiking in quick succession over the coming months,” Alex Holmes of Capital Economics said in a report.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 ended 0.7 per cent lower at 7,105.90.

India’s Sensex gained 0.8 per cent to 54,173.63. New Zealand declined while Southeast Asian markets rose.

Investors also are worried about the impact of Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine and an unexpectedly sharp Chinese economic slowdown.

They hope the Fed can cool inflation that is running at a four-decade high without tipping the biggest global economy into recession.

The Fed raised its key interest rate by 0.5 percentage points at its May meeting in its most aggressive move in two decades. It indicated more hikes were to come.

The S&P 500 is coming off of a seven-week series of declines that came close to ending the bull market for stocks that began in March 2020.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude added 70 cents to USD111.03 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, gained 43 cents to USD111.55 per barrel in London.

The dollar declined to JPY126.63 from JPY127.32. The euro was little-changed at USD1.0687.