By YURI KAGEYAMA
TOKYO (AP) Asian stocks fell on Thursday after strong selling in big-name tech stocks pushed benchmarks lower on Wall Street.
Shares fell in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney but rose in Shanghai. US futures were lower. Oil prices have fallen.
The declines came despite a sharp upward revision to Japan’s estimated economic growth rate for the January-March quarter, to 2.7%. This was above what analysts had expected.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.9% to 31,641.27. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.3% to 7,099.70. The South Korean Kospi slipped 0.2% to 2,610.85.
Hong Kongs Hang Seng fell slightly less than 0.1% to 19,242.26. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.4% to 3,211.44.
Taiwan’s Taiex lost 1.1%, while India’s Sensex fell 0.2%.
On Wednesday, US stocks drifted to a mixed close as declines in Microsoft and other tech stocks eclipsed gains for much of the rest of the market. It’s a reversal from much of this year, as the excitement over artificial intelligence and hopes of an end to interest rate hikes supported the technology sector.
The Japanese economy has been recovering since the lifting of restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic. The nation has seen a return of tourists, as well as other economic activities.
The focus is now on when Japan’s central bank could back away from the accommodative monetary policy it has clung to for years. Over the past year, the US Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world have raised interest rates. Japan’s benchmark rate is minus 0.1%.
While higher growth may leave some room to consider a policy exit from the Bank of Japan, central banks’ stance may remain unchanged for now, with Governor Kazuo Ueda’s recent comments indicating more of a wait-and-see attitude, Yeap Jun Rong, a market analyst at IG said in a report.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 0.4% to 4,267.52 even as the majority of stocks in the index rose. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3% to 33,665.02, while the Nasdaq composite fell 1.3% to 13,104.89.
Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia and Alphabet all fell at least 3% and were the heaviest weights in the S&P 500. Because they are among the most valuable stocks on Wall Street, their movements provide an additional boost at the index.
The Russell 2000 Small Stock Index jumped 1.8% to continue its blistering streak since a stronger-than-expected hiring report last week suggested a recession could be further away than expected.
The market in general has been climbing for months thanks to a resilient economy that managed to defy recession forecasts. But the threat still looms, and Wall Street wonders which will come first: a recession or a sufficient drop in inflation to cause the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates?
Most traders expect Fed leaves rates unchanged next week. It would mark the first policy meeting in more than a year where it has not raised its benchmark rate, which is at its highest level since 2007. But the Fed could start raising rates again in July.
The purpose of higher interest rates is to stifle high inflation by slowing the overall economy and hurting the prices of stocks, bonds, and other investments. Pressure from high rates is squeezing the US banking and manufacturing sectors, although the labor market has remained strong.
In the bond market, the 10-year Treasury yield rose to 3.78% from 3.68% on Tuesday evening. It helps set the rates for mortgages and other large loans. The two-year yield, which moves more in line with Fed expectations, fell from 4.50% to 4.55%.
In energy trading on Thursday, benchmark U.S. crude fell 6 cents to $72.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 79 cents to $72.53 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 9 cents to $76.86 a barrel.
In currency trading, the US dollar fell to 139.84 Japanese yen from 140.10 yen. The euro traded at $1.0716, down from $1.0698.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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