| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

On inflation fears, Asian stocks are trading near one-month lows

On Wednesday, Asian stocks fell to one-month lows as investors speculated that rising oil prices and rising inflationary pressure in the United States could lead to earlier rate hikes and higher bond yields around the world.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan fell 0.1 percent on Wednesday, after falling 1.6 percent on Tuesday, the largest daily percentage drop since March 24.

“There isn’t a simple cause behind this purge. This appears to be a combination of inflation concerns resurfacing and some market participants shifting higher up the value curve, reducing their exposure to something with a stretched valuation,” XM investment analyst Marios Hadjikyriacos said.

At 683.8 points, the regional index is not too far from a record high of 745.89 touched in February and is still up 3% this year so far, on top of a 19% jump in 2020 and a near 16% rise in 2019.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.6%.

Australia shares skidded 0.4% while South Korea’s KOSPI index slipped 0.1%.

Some analysts said the fact the sell-off was largely contained to technology shares suggested that investors were merely moving away from more speculative plays, rather than entirely losing faith in the economic outlook.

“Indeed, this correction could even calm some ‘bubble’ concerns, considering what is being sold,” Hadjikyriacos said.

Analysts, however, doubt the sell-off would extend much further in a world of easy accommodative policy and fiscal largesse.

Overnight on Wall Street, technology stocks were again among the biggest losers though the tech-focused Nasdaq reversed the bulk of its early 2% decline over the course of the day. The Dow dropped 1.4% and the S&P 500 fell 0.9%.

The equity rout barely helped drive any safe haven flows into the greenback, and futures pointed to a mildly positive open for Wall Street. E-mini futures for the S&P 500 nudged 0.1% higher in early Asian trading.

All eyes are now on the U.S. consumer price index report to be released by the U.S. Labor Department on Wednesday with market-based measures of inflation expectations having moved higher , .

Treasury yields have remained stuck to a tight range. The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasuries edged up to 1.6306%, still a far cry from the 2% level seen in before the coronavirus pandemic.

The dollar was up 0.1% against the Japanese yen at 108.74 as it meandered in a narrow 107-110 band.

The dollar index , which measures the greenback against six major currencies, was little changed at 90.219, after touching a two-month low of 89.979.

The currencies of major natural resource suppliers such as Canada stood firm amid rising commodity prices.

The loonie held near a 3-1/2-year high of C$1.2078.

Another proxy for commodity prices, the Australian dollar, was close to a 10-week high of $0.7891 set on Monday.

Fears of a gasoline shortage boosted oil prices after a cyber attack disrupted the country’s largest fuel pipeline system.

The price of U.S. crude rose 35 cents to $65.63 per barrel. The price of Brent crude rose 32 cents to $68.87 per barrel.

At $1,836.2 an ounce, spot gold was down a smidgeon.

In the world of cryptocurrencies, ether hovered near record highs, reaching $4,178.6 on Monday. So far this year, the value of the second-largest digital token has increased by more than 5.5 times.

  • Reuters