Asian stocks fall as investors await U.S. profits, inflation

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets fell again Tuesday as investors waited for U.S. inflation data amid unease about higher interest rates, Chinese efforts to contain coronavirus outbreaks and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul fell. Oil prices rose more than $2 per barrel.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index slid 1.7% on Monday as investors waited for a new round of corporate results to see how profits are affected by inflation that is at a four-decade high.

Markets are uneasy about plans by the Federal Reserve and other central banks to try to cool inflation by rolling back ultra-low interest rates. Russia’s attack on Ukraine and China’s decision to shut down most businesses in Shanghai, its commercial capital, to fight coronavirus outbreaks have added to the anxiety.

“Worries linger about the COVID-19 situation,” said Anderson Alves of ActivTrades in a report. “Markets are eyeing the situation in Ukraine for signs that could trigger further risk-off price action.”

The Shanghai Composite Index slumped 0.7% to 3,146.11 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 1.4% to 26,451.13. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 0.8% to 21,037.19.

The Kospi in Seoul gave up 1% to 2,665.46 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 retreated 0.5% to 7,447.90.

Jakarta advanced while New Zealand and other Southeast Asia markets declined.

Later Tuesday, the Labor Department was due to report March consumer prices. Investors worry inflation might be strong enough to encourage consumers to cut spending, which would likely mean a sharper slowdown in economic growth than expected.

On Monday, the S&P 500 fell to 4,412.53 as all sectors in the index declined. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.2% to 34,308.08. The Nasdaq slid 2.2% to 13,411.96.

Microsoft fell 3.9% and Apple shed 2.6%.

Investors are anticipating a more aggressive shift from the Federal Reserve as it tries to rein in rising inflation. The central bank has already announced a quarter-percentage point raise of its key interest rate.

Fed officials indicated in minutes from last month’s meeting they were considering raising the U.S. benchmark rate by double the normal amount at upcoming meetings. They also indicated they would shrink the Fed’s bond holdings, which would push up long-term borrowing rates.

Oil prices have fallen back on expectations of weaker Chinese demand after most businesses in Shanghai were shut down and controls imposed on other industrial centers to contain coronavirus outbreaks. Prices spiked above $130 per barrel last month on anxiety about possible disruption in Russian supplies.

Automakers and other manufacturers in China are reducing production after authorities tightened restrictions to help stem coronavirus outbreaks in Shanghai and other cities.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.92 to $96.21 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $3.97 on Monday to $94.29. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, added $1.83 to $100.31 per barrel in London. It fell $4.30 the previous session to $98.48.

The dollar declined to 125.36 Japanese yen from Monday’s 125.46 yen. The euro declined to $1.0876 from $1.0890.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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