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Markets mixed as rate hike woes offset China tech hopes

HONG KONG (AFP) – Stock markets struggled yesterday on long-running worries over surging inflation and rising interest rates, which overshadowed hopes that China would ease off its regulatory drive against the country’s beleaguered tech giants.

A spike in United States (US) Treasury yields took the wind out of the sales for Wall Street, with focus now on the release of inflation data from the US and China at the end of the week.

Analysts are tipping the Federal Reserve to lift borrowing costs by half a point at its next three meetings as officials try to get a grip on runaway prices. But that is causing discomfort on trading floors as investors fret over the impact on economic growth and firms’ bottom lines.

“Inflation concerns are not going anywhere fast,” Fiona Cincotta, at City Index, said. “Rising crude oil prices and a strong labour report have lifted bets that the Fed may need to act aggressively to rein in inflation.” And SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes added, “Investors are hyper-focussed on inflation, economic growth, and future Fed policy.

“Most assume the worst and think a financial tsunami will hit the US and global markets thanks to the quorum of US-based bank CEOs that have given the gloomy growth narrative their imprimatur. Anything less than that outcome is going to surprise a lot of folks.” Equity markets were mixed in Asia and Europe. Tokyo rose, helped by a softening of the yen to a two-year low owing to expectations the Bank of Japan will not tighten monetary policy just as US rates climb. Manila and Jakarta also edged up but there were losses in Seoul, Singapore, Mumbai, Bangkok, Wellington and Taipei.

A currency trader is pictured near the screens showing the foreign exchange rates at a foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

Sydney dropped more than one per cent after the Australian central bank announced a bigger-than-forecast half-point rate hike to quell inflation.

Hong Kong fell and Shanghai ticked slightly higher, even as heavyweights Alibaba and led a rally among tech firms following a report that China was close to ending a painful crackdown on ride-hailing app Didi Global and restoring its main apps this week. Didi’s US-listed notes soared more than 20 per cent.

The Wall Street Journal added that probes into two other firms – Full Truck Alliance and recruitment platform Kanzhun – fanning optimism for the sector’s outlook after a long period of hefty selling pressure.

“This was seen as a signal that the regulatory crackdown on Chinese tech firms was starting to end… as China focusses on stabilising the economy following Covid restrictions,” said National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland.

London was flat in early trade but Paris and Frankfurt fell. Markets have seen some levelling out in recent weeks as the easing of lockdown measures in China helps to offset some of the worries about higher rates and the impact of the Ukraine war.

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