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Stock market today: Asian shares track Wall Street slump triggered by strong US spending data

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LA Post: Stock market today: Asian shares track Wall Street slump triggered by strong US spending data
April 16, 2024
ELAINE KURTENBACH - AP

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares skidded Tuesday following a slump on Wall Street after higher yields in the U.S. bond market cranked up pressure on stocks.

The Shanghai Composite index lost 1.7% to 3,007.07 even though the Chinese government reported that the economy grew at a surprisingly fast 5.3% annual rate in the first quarter of the year. In quarterly terms it expanded at a 1.6% pace.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 2.1% to 16,248.97.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell 1.9% to 38,471.20 as the dollar continued to gain against the Japanese yen, hitting fresh 34-year highs. By late afternoon the dollar was trading at 154.41 yen, up from 154.27 yen.

The euro slipped to $1.0621 from $1.0626.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan's Taiex led the regional decline, falling 2.7%. Markets in Bangkok were closed for Songkran holidays.

In South Korea, the Kospi declined 2.3% to 2,609.63, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.8% to 7,612.50.

On Monday, the S&P 500 tumbled 1.2% to 5,061.82, following up on its 1.6% loss from last week, which was its worst since October. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.7% to 37,735.11, and the Nasdaq composite slumped 1.8% to 15,885.02.

Stocks had been solidly higher earlier in the day, as oil prices eased with hopes that international efforts to calm escalating tensions in the Middle East may help. But Treasury yields also spurted upward following the latest report on the U.S. economy to blow past expectations.

The economy and financial markets are in an awkward phase where such strength raises hopes for growing profits at companies but also hurts prospects for easier interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

Traders want lower interest rates, which can give the overall economy a boost, and much of the U.S. stock market's run to records recently was built on expectations for cuts.

But strong reports like Monday's, which showed U.S. shoppers increased their spending at retailers last month by more than expected, have traders broadly forecasting just one or two cuts to rates this year, according to data from CME Group. That's down from expectations for six or more cuts at the start of this year. Some traders are bracing for potentially no cuts because inflation and the overall economy have remained stubbornly above forecasts this year.

High interest rates and bond yields hurt prices for all kinds of investments, particularly those that look expensive or those that compete for the same kinds of investors as bonds do.

More influential was weakness for Big Tech stocks. Apple dropped 2.2%, Nvidia fell 2.5% and Microsoft sank 2%. They've been past beneficiaries of low interest rates and often feel pressure when yields are rising. Because they're also the largest stocks on Wall Street, their movements carry extra weight on the S&P 500 and other indexes.

Microsoft, for example, swung from an early gain of 1.2% to its loss in the afternoon and was the second-largest force weighing on the S&P 500.

Helping to keep the losses in check were some financial companies that reported encouraging earnings for the start of the year. The pressure is on companies broadly to deliver fatter profits because interest rates looks so much less likely to offer support in the near term.

In the oil market, a barrel of U.S. crude for May delivery slipped 10 cents to $85.31 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 25 cents to $85.41 on Monday as political leaders urged Israel not to retaliate after Iran’s attack on Saturday involving hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

Brent crude, the international standard, shed 8 cents to $90.02 per barrel. It eased 35 cents to $90.10 per barrel on Monday.

This year’s jump in oil prices has been raising worries about a knock-on effect on inflation, which has remained stubbornly high. After cooling solidly last year, inflation has consistently come in above forecasts in each month so far of 2024.

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