Asian stocks fell in cautious trade on Wednesday, as Covid-19 worries lingered and investors awaited the minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest meeting for clues on the central bank’s interest rate hike moves.
Geopolitical tensions also remained in investors’ radar after North Korea reportedly fired a suspected ballistic missile off its east coast.
The dollar eased slightly in Asian trade and U.S. Treasuries held steady amid bets that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates at least three times beginning in May 2022.
Oil held gains after OPEC and its allies agreed to a scheduled increase in production for next month. Also, the American Petroleum Institute reported U.S. stockpiles fell by 6.43 million barrels last week.
China’s Shanghai Composite was down 0.7 percent after an index of Chinese companies traded in New York fell the most in more than two weeks.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 0.8 percent, with tech stocks retreating on concerns that Tencent Holdings will keep cutting its stakes in a host of companies following several recent billion-dollar divestment plans.
Japanese shares were marginally lower in choppy trade as the yen pinned near a five-year low against the dollar, helping lift exporters such as Sony and Toyota Motor.
Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.3 percent as tech stocks followed their U.S. peers lower amid inflation fears.
South Korea’s Kospi average fell as much as 1.4 percent while New Zealand’s NZX-50 index was up half a percent.
U.S. stocks ended mixed overnight, a day after the country reported more than 1 million new Covid cases. The Dow rose 0.6 percent to reach a new record closing high as banks benefited from rising Treasury yields.
The S&P 500 finished marginally lower while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite tumbled 1.3 percent, reflecting substantial weakness among software and biotechnology stocks.
European stocks hit a record high on Tuesday, thanks to easing worries around the Omicron coronavirus variant and strong economic data from Germany and the U.K.
The pan European Stoxx 600 climbed 0.8 percent. The German DAX gained 0.8 percent, France’s CAC 40 index jumped 1.4 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 added 1.6 percent.
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