Asian shares advance despite Wall Street retreat

Business

A man walks past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange in Hong Kong Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Asian stock markets were mixed Tuesday after Wall Street rose as investor concern about possible higher interest rates receded. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

BANGKOK (AP) — Stocks advanced in Asia on Wednesday after a wobbly day on Wall Street, when the S&P 500 gave back most of its gains from a day earlier.

Hong Kong led the advance, gaining 1.7%. Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Sydney also were higher.

Investors have taken heart from an easing in bond prices that has alleviated worries over possible interest rate hikes. Bond yields have eased and the yield on the 10-year Treasury inched down to 1.40% early Wednesday.

But expectations for stronger economic growth in coming months continue to fuel worries that interest rates will head higher.

“It feels like we are in the eye of the storm,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary. Investors have recently focused on selling high-priced technology shares but are also watching for policy changes as President Joe Biden’s $1.9 billion stimulus package heads into the Senate after narrowly passing in the House.

“How much overheating and inflation will the Biden fiscal stimulus generate remains at the top of virtually every market conversation,” Innes said.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng rose to 29,591.76. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.2% to 29,473.25, while the Kospi in Seoul picked up 0.6% to 3,062.99. The Shanghai Composite index advanced 1.3% to 3,555.28.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.8% to 6,815.40 after the government reported the economy grew at a 3.1% quarterly rate, but a minus 1.1% annual rate, in the fourth quarter of last year. The better than expected result was helped by consumer demand and public spending, analysts said.

India’s Sensex opened 0.8% higher.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 fell 0.8% to 3,870.29 after earlier flipping between small gains and losses. A day before, the benchmark index had leaped 2.4% for its best performance since June. Technology and internet stocks accounted for much of the selling, a reversal from a day earlier.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.5% to 31,391.52. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite dropped 1.7%, to 13,358.79.

Smaller companies fared worse than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 small-cap index gave up 43.81 points, or 1.9%, to 2,231.51.

Higher interest rates force investors to rethink how much they’re willing to pay for stocks, making each $1 of profit that companies earn a little less valuable. That’s making Wall Street reconsider the value of technology stocks, in large part because their recent dominance left them looking even pricier than the rest of the market.

Treasury yields rose above 1.50% recently with expectations for economic growth and inflation, up from about 0.9% at the beginning of the year. Such a rise makes borrowing more expensive for homebuyers, companies taking out loans and virtually everyone else. That can slow economic growth.

On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard sought to calm financial markets by emphasizing that the Fed, while generally optimistic about the economy, is still far from raising interest rates or reducing its $120 billion a month in asset purchases.

She also said that the Fed is closely monitoring the recent rise in the 10-year Treasury yield and investors’ inflation expectations. But she repeatedly said the economy is 10 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level and the Fed would keep rates at nearly zero until the job market has fully recovered.

“We’ve got some distance to go to meet our goals,” of higher inflation and lower unemployment, Brainard said.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak on Thursday, and at the end of the week will be the government’s jobs report, which is typically the highlight economic report of every month. It also includes numbers for how much wages are rising across the economy, a key component of inflation.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil rose 20 cents to $59.95 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 89 cents to $59.75 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, added 27 cents to $62.97 per barrel.

The dollar rose to 106.85 Japanese yen from 106.68 yen late Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.2085 from $1.2091.

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AP Business Writers Stan Choe, Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.

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