HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian equities mostly rose yesterday following gains on Wall Street but optimism over a possible pause in Federal Reserve interest rate hikes was being weighed against worries about the global economy after a year of monetary tightening.
Disappointing earnings from Wall Street titans Apple, Amazon and Alphabet – who together are worth almost USD5 trillion – indicated higher borrowing costs and elevated inflation were weighing on consumer demand.
The readings came in towards the end of a week when the stocks rally that defined most of January hit the barriers as traders worried that the buying had been overdone and that there were plenty more bumps in the road for the economy.
Those concerns overshadowed optimism about China’s re-opening and recovery from nearly three years of zero-COVID policies that hammered business activity.
They also offset the positive mood created by an acknowledgement from the Fed that it was making progress in bringing inflation down from multi-decade highs, fuelling hopes it was nearing the end of its rate hike cycle.
Eyes are now turning to the release of United States (US) jobs data later yesterday, which will provide a clearer idea about the state of the world’s biggest economy.
“A softer payrolls data, so long as it does not fall off a cliff triggering a recessionary (backlash), could re-engage all the favourite trades of the year,” said SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes.
“Not least, it would provide the most critical evidence to date to suggest that the market’s rates pricing is more in line with reality than the Fed’s own more subtly hawkish higher for longer signalling.”
Wall Street’s three main indexes ended broadly higher, with the Nasdaq piling on more than three percent thanks to forecast-beating results from Facebook owner Meta.
However, the after-hours reports from Apple, Amazon and Google’s parent firm Alphabet brought investors back down to earth.
Apple said sales dropped more than expected in October-December, Amazon’s revenue was hit by weak consumer demand and Alphabet results fell short of estimates.
“The war in Ukraine, inflationary pressures, economic uncertainty and macroeconomic headwinds kept the consumer sentiment weak in 2022 while smartphone users reduced the frequency of their purchases,” Harmeet Singh Walia, of Counterpoint Research, said in a report on Apple.
Still, after a shaky start, most Asian markets enjoyed gains.
Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Wellington, Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta were all higher, though Hong Kong dropped on a sell-off in tech firms while Shanghai was also off.
Futures in the Nasdaq and S&P 500 were both deep in the red, while London, Paris and Frankfurt opened lower.
Mumbai posted gains, though tycoon Gautam Adani took another battering, having lost more than USD100 billion from their valuations since a report last week accused his empire of “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud”.
Flagship Adani Enterprises was repeatedly suspended in Mumbai, hitting multiple trading stops on the way to falling by 30 per cent before paring losses.
Adani Power, Adani Green Energy, Adani Total Gas – in which French giant TotalEnergies has a 37.4 per cent stake – and Adani Transmission were also suspended when they hit their limits. On currency markets, the euro and pound lost further ground after weakening on Thursday despite the European Central Bank and the Bank of England hiking interest rates more than the Fed.
Crude prices extended Thursday’s losses on concerns about the economic outlook and demand, with US stockpiles rising last week more than expected.
“Oil’s in a bit of a limbo as the market awaits tangible signs of China’s oil demand recovery,” Vandana Hari, of Vanda Insights, said.