BANGKOK – Asian shares fell Thursday after heavy selling of big-name tech stocks pushed benchmarks lower on Wall Street.
Stocks fell in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney but rose in Shanghai. U.S. futures were lower. Oil prices retreated.
The declines came despite a sharp upward revision in Japan’s estimated economic growth rate for the January-March quarter, to 2.7%. That was above what analysts had expected.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 sank 0.9% to 31,641.27. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.3% to 7,099.70. South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.2% to 2,610.85.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged less than 0.1% lower to 19,242.26. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.4% to 3,211.44.
Taiwan's Taiex lost 1.1%, while India's Sensex gave up 0.2%.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks drifted to a mixed close as declines for Microsoft and other tech stocks overshadowed gains for much of the rest of the market. It’s a reversal from much of this year, as excitement about artificial intelligence and hopes for an end to interest rate hikes have buoyed the tech sector.
The Japanese economy has been recovering since restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic were lifted. The nation has seen a return of tourists, as well as other economic activity.
The focus is now on when Japan’s central bank may move away from the easy monetary policy it's stuck to for years. In the past year, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the world's other central banks have been raising interest rates. Japan's benchmark rate is minus 0.1%.
“While a higher growth reading may provide some room to consider a policy exit from the Bank of Japan, the central bank’s stance could remain unmoved for now, with recent comments from the Governor Kazuo Ueda pointing to more wait-and-see,” Yeap Jun Rong, a market analyst at IG said in a report.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 0.4% to 4,267.52 even though the majority of stocks within the index rose. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3% to 33,665.02, while the Nasdaq composite fell 1.3% to 13,104.89.
Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia and Alphabet all sank at least 3% and were the heaviest weights on the S&P 500. Because they're some of Wall Street's most valuable stocks, their movements pack extra punch on the index.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks jumped 1.8% to continue its hot streak since a stronger-than-expected report on hiring last week suggested a recession may be further off than feared.
The market in general has climbed for months thanks to a resilient economy that’s managed to defy predictions for a recession. But the threat still looms, and Wall Street is questioning which will come first: a recession or inflation falling enough to get the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates?
Most traders expect the Fed to leave rates steady next week. That would mark the first policy meeting in more than a year where it hasn’t hiked its benchmark rate, which is at its highest level since 2007. But the Fed may resume raising rates in July.
The goal of higher interest rates is to squelch high inflation by slowing the entire economy and hurting prices for stocks, bonds and other investments. Pressure from high rates are squeezing the U.S. banking and manufacturing industries, though the job market has remained solid.
In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 3.78% from 3.68% late Tuesday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans. The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, rose to 4.55% from 4.50%.
In energy trading Thursday, benchmark U.S. crude fell 6 cents to $72.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 79 cents to $72.53 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, shed 9 cents to $76.86 a barrel.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar fell to 139.84 Japanese yen from 140.10 yen. The euro cost $1.0716, up from $1.0698.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama