By YURI KAGEYAMA – AP Business Writer
TOKYO (AP) — Asian stocks fell on Wednesday, echoing a broad decline on Wall Street and driven by concerns about how the war in Ukraine could drive up prices for oil and other commodities.
Tokyo’s benchmark rose after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced measures to help poor families and small businesses as the country grapples with rising prices and a weaker currency.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 1.9% in morning trade to 26,200.26.
The Bank of Japan is hosting a two-day board meeting. The central bank has sent a clear message about keeping interest rates extremely low to encourage spending and investment and has periodically purchased Japanese government bonds, with the aim of keeping 10-year bond yields in a range of plus or minus 0.25%.
Elsewhere in the region, South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.1% to 2,638.93. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7% to 7,267.30. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.9% to 19,762.57 and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.6% to 2,869.05.
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Concerns about restrictions on movement and business activity in Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities to tackle a rise in coronavirus cases are weighing on investor sentiment.
So are the ramifications of the war in ukraine, which, in addition to wider conflict risks, has pushed the already inflated prices of many commodities and goods even higher, complicating the economic outlook and causing hardship for many businesses and consumers.
“After seemingly taking a step back with the start of the earnings season, renewed tensions in the Ukraine-Russia conflict serve as a reminder that geopolitical risk is far from over,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
On Tuesday, U.S. benchmarks were weighed down by sharp declines in Big Tech stocks that dragged the Nasdaq to its worst fall since September 2020. The S&P 500 fell 2.8% to 4,175.20. The benchmark index closed the day with 95% of its shares losing ground. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.4% to 33,240.18.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq suffered the biggest losses of the day. It fell 4%, to 12,490.74, its worst drop since September 8, 2020. The index is now down 20% this year as investors shun the ultra-expensive tech sector, which has made gains considerable during much of the pandemic.
As the Federal Reserve prepares to aggressively raise interest rates as it intensifies its fight against inflation, traders are increasingly unwilling to bear the high prices they had paid for Microsoft, the parent company of Facebook and other tech giants.
Microsoft fell 3.7%. Google’s parent company Alphabet fell 3.6% in regular trading and fell another 6% in after-hours trading after reporting results below analysts’ estimates.
Other big tech companies are on deck to report earnings this week, including Facebook parent Meta on Wednesday and Apple on Thursday.
Tesla fell 12.2% on concerns CEO Elon Musk was distracted and less engaged in running the electric vehicle maker as it buys the social media company Twitterwhich fell 3.9%.
Retailers and other businesses that depend on direct consumer spending also fell sharply. General Motors fell 4.5% while Nike slipped 5.8%.
General Electric fell 10.3% in one of the biggest losses in the market after telling investors that inflation and other pressures weighed on its profit forecast for the year.
Bond yields fell. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.73% from 2.82% on Monday evening.
Energy companies made a gain, the only one of the 11 S&P 500 sectors to do so.
In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 77 cents to $102.47 a barrel. The price of benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 3.2% on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 83 cents to $105.82 a barrel.
After rebounding in the second half of March, US stocks were on shaky ground in April. The S&P 500 has fallen for three consecutive weeks.
“It’s the market getting a little more comfortable with a slowdown at best and recession fears at worst,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategy analyst at Baird.
Earnings for industrial and retail companies are in focus for the rest of the week. The aircraft manufacturer Boeing publishes its results on Wednesday. Industry leader Caterpillar announces its results on Thursday, alongside McDonald’s and Amazon.
In business news, the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence has weakened slightly in April but still high. And on Friday, the Commerce Department releases its March Personal Income and Expenditure report.
Economists and investors fear that the US economy could slow sharply or even fall into recession due to the sharp interest rate hikes the Fed is expected to impose.
In currency trading, the US dollar rose slightly to 127.46 Japanese yen from 127.23 yen. The euro traded at $1.0650, down from $1.0639.
AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.
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