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Markets retreat as traders take profits, eye commodities’ spike

AFP – Markets in Asia and Europe suffered a downturn yesterday after racking up a series of gains as profit-takers stepped in, while traders were also spooked by a surge in commodity prices.

Eyes are also on the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) May policy decision, hoping for some idea about officials’ thinking as they considered three straight forecast-beating reads on inflation.

That, however, came before figures last week indicated price rises were easing, stoking fresh hopes the United States (US) central bank could cut interest rates a couple of times this year, with some looking at July or November as possibilities for a first.

Still, a number of Fed decision-makers have warned they are not willing to call for a reduction until they are sure higher borrowing costs are doing their job and that inflation is truly under control.

After a mildly positive day in New York, where the Nasdaq hit a record high and the Dow ended down from Friday’s record, Asian investors were cautious as they eyed rising commodity prices.

Copper, a key gauge of the state of the economy owing to its widespread use, hit a record above USD11,400 on Monday, while gold was also hanging just short of its own peak touched on the same day. Silver was around an 11-year high.

A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo, Japan. PHOTO: AP

“Copper is now on a month-old rally boosted by tight supply with smelters in China decreasing output,” said National Australian Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

“But more recently (the) BHP-Anglo bid has increased attention on the demand prospect from fast-growing sectors including electric vehicles, renewable energy and artificial intelligence,” he added, referring to mining giant BHP’s buyout offer of rival Anglo America.

“A short squeeze and prospect of Fed easing later this year have also helped the rally.”

Hong Kong led losses, shedding more than two per cent after soaring around 30 per cent from its January low, while Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Wellington, Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila were also in the red. London, Paris and Frankfurt were also down.

China’s announcement last week of plans to support the country’s property sector by buying huge numbers of unsold homes – as well as lower requirements for buyers – provided a huge boost to markets.

But news yesterday rammed home the tough work they have ahead of them, with data showing local governments took in the least amount of revenue for land sales in eight years.

Nvidia is the last of the major US tech giants due to release its earnings today, with analysts saying the reading will be closely watched as its high-end processors have been prized by artificial intelligence companies.