Asian shares mixed in light ‘Golden Week’ trading

The Associated Press
A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul on Tuesday.

Asian shares were mixed in light “Golden Week” trading Tuesday with markets in China, Japan and some other countries closed for holidays.

Investors are watching to see what the U.S. Federal Reserve does as it accelerates efforts to curb inflation. The central bank is expected to raise short-term interest rates by double the usual amount when it releases its latest statement on Wednesday. It has already raised its key overnight rate once, for the first time since 2018, and Wall Street is expecting several big hikes in coming months.

That will make it more costly to borrow — for a car, a home, a credit card purchase and may weaken the economy. It also would draw investments out of stocks into other assets as their yields rise. Ultra-low interest rates helped drive stocks to unprecedented highs during the pandemic and now that process is being reversed.

Central banks in many other countries are also raising rates to try to bring price increases under control.

The Reserve Bank of Australia was due to decide on a rate hike later Tuesday. New Zealand has begun raising rates, as have some other central banks in the region apart from Japan and China, where economic recoveries have been slowed by efforts to tame recent outbreaks of coronavirus.

For the session ahead, traders will be working on positioning ahead of the FOMC (Fed) and watching the RBA Meeting, where much firmer-than-expected . . . consumer price index data in Australia may have pitched the scales towards a rate hike, Anderson Alves of ActivTrades said in a commentary.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was nearly unchanged at 7,348.40.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.1% to 21,114.25 and the Kospi in South Korea rose 0.2% to 2,693.38.

On Monday, a late-afternoon turnaround led by technology stocks left major indexes moderately higher on Wall Street, averting more losses following a brutal April when widespread tech sell-offs dragged down major benchmarks.

The S&P 500 rose 0.6% to 4,155.38, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3% to 33,061.50. The Nasdaq climbed 1.6% to 12,536.02.

Smaller company stocks also reversed course after spending much of the day in the red. The Russell 2000 index rose 1% to 1,882.91.

Bond prices fell, pushing yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was at 2.98% after rising to 3.00% on Monday. It hadn’t been above 3% since Dec. 3, 2018, according to Tradeweb.

The uneven start to May follows an 8.8% skid for the benchmark S&P 500 in April led by Big Tech companies, which started to look overpriced, particularly with interest rates set to rise sharply.

Just over half of the stocks in the S&P 500 closed higher, with the technology and communication sectors driving much of the advance. Chipmaker Nvidia and Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, each rose 5.3%.

The broader market often bends to the direction of technology stocks. Many companies in the sector have pricey stock values and therefore have more force in pushing the major indexes up or down.

Still, it’s unusual for tech stocks to rally at the same time that bond yields are rising. That’s because higher yields make bonds increasingly attractive assets relative to more risky and expensive stocks, particularly those of technology and other growth-oriented companies.

U.S. crude oil prices rose. European energy ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss Russian supply issues and sanctions. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted a jump in already high oil and natural gas prices.

U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 21 cents to $104.96 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 48 cents to $105.17 per barrel on Monday.

Brent crude shed 21 cents to $107.37 per barrel.

Concerns about rising inflation have been hanging over the latest round of corporate earnings. This week will bring more, with Pfizer reporting results on Tuesday, CVS Health on Wednesday, and Kellogg on Thursday.

In currency trading, the dollar was at 130.00 Japanese yen, down from 130.15 yen on Monday. The euro rose to $1.0516 from $1.0505.