Asian stocks rise after Wall St slides on rate hike fears

Feb 21, 2023, 11:26 PM | Updated: Feb 22, 2023, 10:30 pm

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Thursday following Wall Street’s biggest one-day decline in two months after notes from a Federal Reserve meeting showed officials expect to keep U.S. interest rates high to fight stubborn inflation.

Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday. Oil prices gained.

Wall Street sank Wednesday after notes from the Federal Reserve’s latest board meeting showed members expect “ongoing increases” in its key lending rate to slow the economy. That dampened hopes that cuts might start as early as late this year.

“The need for ‘higher for longer’ rates was made plain,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.1% to 3,294.68 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 0.5% to 20,524.60.

The Kospi in Seoul rose 1.2% to 2,447.70 while Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.3% to 7,289.70.

New Zealand and Jakarta advanced while Singapore declined.

Global stock prices have been declining on worries inflation might not be cooling as quickly or smoothly as traders hoped.

Traders worry the Fed and other central banks might be willing to push the global economy into recession to extinguish inflation that has stuck near multi-decade highs despite sharp rate hikes over the past year.

Traders have begun calling off bets the Fed might cut rates late this year. They expect at least two more increases by the Fed of 0.25 percentage points. Some think the U.S. central bank might go back to using unusually large increases of double that margin.

The Fed’s key lending rate stands at 4.50% to 4.75%, up from close to zero a year ago. It has said it expects no cuts this year.

The Fed minutes showed “a few” officials preferred to raise the benchmark rate by 0.5 points at the last meeting, double the margin the bank decided on.

That followed resilient readings on hiring, retail sales and inflation that showed economic activity still is strong.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index lost 0.2% to 3,991.05. The S&P’s gain so far this year has narrowed to 3.9% from a peak of 8.9%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.3% to 33,045.09. The Nasdaq edged up 0.1% to 11,507.07.

Trades see a 3-in-4 chance the Fed will raise rates by 0.25 points at its next meeting in March, according to CME Group. They see a 27% chance of a hike of 0.50 points.

A month ago, traders saw a roughly one-in-five chance that the Fed wouldn’t raise rates at all in March.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude gained 37 cents to $74.32 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract tumbled $2.41 on Wednesday to $73.95. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, advanced 37 cents to $80.82 per barrel in London. It fell $2.45 the previous session to $80.60.

The dollar fell to 134.95 Japanese yen from 134.99 yen. The euro fell to $1.0601 from $1.0650.

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Asian stocks rise after Wall St slides on rate hike fears