Asian Shares Decline On Inflation, Rate Worries

Asian stocks fell on Thursday, U.S. bond yields edged up and the Japanese yen slid to fresh 20-year lows against the dollar as investors waited for cues from the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting later in the day and Friday’s U.S. consumer inflation report.

The ECB is all set to bring an end to the bank’s asset purchase program and signal rate hikes starting in July to combat rising inflation. The White House has said it expects U.S. inflation to be “elevated.”

China’s Shanghai Composite Index gave up 0.8 percent to close at 3,238.95 as Shanghai began imposing new COVID-19 restrictions. The city will lock down a district of 2.7 million people on Saturday to conduct mass coronavirus testing, city authorities said. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed 0.7 percent lower at 21,869.05.

Japanese shares ended little changed as a weakening yen buoyed shares of exporters. The Nikkei 225 Index inched up by 12.24 points to 28,246.53, while the broader Topix slipped marginally to close at 1,969.05.

Automakers benefited from the yen’s steep decline, with Nissan, Subaru and Mitsubishi Motors climbing 2-3 percent.

Oil firm Inpex Corp. rallied 3.3 percent and Japan Petroleum surged 5.6 percent as oil prices hovered near a 13-week high on signs of robust demand in the world’s top consumer the United States.

Uniqlo store operator Fast Retailing added 1.9 percent on the price hike buzz. Chip-making equipment manufacturers underperformed, with Advantest, Tokyo Electron and Screen Holdings losing 2-3 percent.

Shippers Nippon Yusen, Mitsui O.S.K and Kawasaki Kisen lost 7-11 percent on growth worries.

Seoul stocks recovered much of the day’s losses to end marginally lower, extending losses for the third day running on worries about stagflation – a combination of slow growth and rising inflation.

Australian markets fell sharply to end near four-week lows, with miners and banks falling heavily. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.4 percent to 7,019.70, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 1.5 percent at 7,240.40.

The big four banks slumped 2-4 percent on concerns about the health of the housing market. Weak iron ore prices pulled down miners, with heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto falling 2.4 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

New Zealand shares fell, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index closing down 0.5 percent at 11,211.31.

U.S. stocks fell overnight, with concerns about slowing growth and prospects of tighter policy measures by the Fed weighing on markets.

As interest rates climb, a measure of U.S. mortgage applications fell to its lowest level in 22 years last week, data showed.

The Dow dropped 0.8 percent, the S&P 500 fell 1.1 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite declined 0.7 percent.

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