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Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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Asian shares mixed ahead of inflation, earnings reports

TOKYO — Asian shares were mixed Wednesday following another volatile day on Wall Street, as traders braced for updates on inflation and corporate earnings.

Benchmarks fell in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Taiwan but rose in Shanghai and Sydney. In currency trading, the Japanese yen declined to a 24-year low against the U.S. dollar at 146 yen-levels, raising expectations of another intervention by Tokyo to prop up the yen.

South Korea’s Kospi added 0.5% to 2,203.47 after the Bank of Korea raised its key rate by 0.5 percentage points, amid the backdrop of the U.S. Fed rate hikes and growing inflation risks from the weak won and rebounding global oil prices.

In currency trading the Japanese yen declined to a 24-year low against the U.S. dollar at 146 yen-levels, raising expectations of another Japanese intervention to prop up the yen. The dollar was trading at 146.26 Japanese yen, up from 145.80 yen. The euro cost 97.13 cents, inching up from 97.07 yen.

The weaker yen raises costs for both consumers and businesses who rely on imports of food, fuel and other needs, but the bigger purchasing power for foreign currencies is expected to boost tourism. Japan reopened fully to individual tourist travel this week after being closed for more than two years because of the pandemic.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 was virtually unchanged, losing 4 points to 26,396.83. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 2.5 points at 6,647.50. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.8% to 16,693.18, while the Shanghai Composite climbed 0.7% to 3,001.83.

“Traders in Asia will also be positioning carefully ahead of the European and U.K. trading sessions,” Anderson Alves at ActivTrades said in a commentary. “It is unlikely that there will be any pushback on the recent hawkish narrative that has been putting pressure on risk assets, with inflation still a problem globally.”

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 0.7% Tuesday, marking its fifth straight loss, closing at 3,588.84. The Nasdaq dropped 1.1% to 10,426.19. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.1% to 29,239.19, while the Russell 2000 index rose 1 point, or about 0.1%, to 1,692.92.

Recession fears are weighing on markets as stubbornly hot inflation leads consumers to temper their spending and the Federal Reserve and other central banks to raise interest rates, slowing economic activity.

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its forecast for global economic growth in 2023 to 2.7%, down from July’s estimate of 2.9%. It said Europe faces a high risk of a recession with energy costs soaring amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wall Street is closely watching the Federal Reserve as it continues to aggressively raise its benchmark interest rate to make borrowing more expensive, a strategy that carries the risk of slowing the U.S. economy too much and pushing it into a recession.

Uber fell 10.4% and Lyft slumped 12% following a proposal by the U.S. government that could give contract workers at ride-hailing and other gig economy companies full status as employees.

The Fed will release minutes from its last meeting on Wednesday, possibly giving Wall Street more insight into its views on inflation and next steps.

Investors still expect the Fed to raise its overnight rate by three-quarters of a percentage point next month, the fourth such increase. That’s triple the usual amount, and would bring the rate up to a range of 3.75% to 4%. It started the year at virtually zero.

The government will also release its report on wholesale prices Wednesday, providing an update on how inflation is hitting businesses. The closely watched report on consumer prices will be released on Thursday and a report on retail sales is due Friday.

Also coming up is a fresh set of corporate earnings, which could provide a clearer picture of inflation’s impact.

Among the companies reporting quarterly results this week: PepsiCo, Delta Air Lines and Domino’s Pizza. Banks, including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, will also report results.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude lost 51 cents to $88.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. U.S. crude oil prices fell 2% Tuesday. Brent crude, the international pricing standard, fell 39 cents to $93.93 a barrel.

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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