Asian stocks fell broadly on Wednesday as a sharp increase in U.S. consumer prices in June fanned market worries that the Federal Reserve may raise rates sooner than expected.
Investors awaited Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s congressional testimony before Congress for any hints on the central bank’s monetary policy outlook.
Chinese stocks fell sharply after the U.S. government strengthened its warnings to businesses about the growing risks of having supply chain and investment links to China’s Xinjiang region. Investors also reacted to comments from China’s premier that the country will take “comprehensive measures” to ease rising commodity prices.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite index fell 38.02 points, or 1.07 percent, to 3,528.50, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended down 175.95 points, or 0.63 percent, at 27,787.46.
Japanese shares fell as investors awaited Powell’s testimony for his comments about rising price pressures and monetary support going forward.
The Nikkei average ended down 109.75 points, or 0.38 percent, at 28,608.49, while the broader Topix index slipped 0.23 percent to settle at 1,963.16.
Shipping firms lost ground, with Kawasaki Kisen and Mitsui OSK Lines falling around 4 percent each. Aviation company ANA Holdings declined 2.4 percent and Japan Airlines tumbled 3.2 percent.
Film company Toho jumped 11.1 percent after reporting robust earnings for the first half of 2021.
Australian markets eked out modest gains, with miners and energy stocks pacing the gainers. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 22.60 points, or 0.31 percent, to 7,354.70, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 19.60 points, or 0.26 percent, at 7,631.80.
Miners ended mixed despite an overnight jump in Chinese iron ore futures. Lithium-boron supplier Ioneer jumped as much as 4.9 percent. Technology stocks slumped, with buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay plunging 9.5 percent.
Zip Co plummeted 11.4 percent and Sezzle lost 10.3 percent after a Bloomberg report that Apple Inc is testing a service to let users pay for Apple Pay purchases with interest-free installments.
National Australia Bank ended little changed after confirming it was in talks with Citigroup to potentially buy the U.S. bank’s Australian consumer business.
In economic news, consumer confidence in Australia remains firm in July, the latest survey from Westpac Bank showed as its sentiment index gained 1.5 percent to a score of 108.8 – up from 107.2 in June.
Seoul stocks ended slightly lower to snap a two-day winning streak as U.S. inflation jitters overshadowed domestic data indicating a labor market recovery from the pandemic. The Kospi average dropped 6.57 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 3,264.81.
New Zealand shares ended lower after the country’s central bank said it would halt additional asset purchases under the large scale asset purchase program by July 23 amid signs that the economy may be overheating, pushing inflation toward the top of the central bank’s target range. The benchmark NZX-50 index dropped 65.26 points, or 0.51 percent, to 12,719.68.
U.S. stocks pulled back from record highs overnight and bond yields rose as new data showed consumer inflation rose at its fastest pace in nearly 13 years in June.
The consumer price index jumped an annual 5.4 percent, coming in well above expectations for a 5 percent increase and adding pressure on the Fed to tighten policy sooner than expected.
The Dow slipped 0.3 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 both dropped around 0.4 percent.
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