Asian Shares Decline On Interest Rate Concerns

(RTTNews) - Asian stocks tracked overnight declines on Wall Street to end lower on Friday as hawkish comments from a trio of Fed policymakers as well as rising oil prices spurred more uncertainty about the outlook for U.S. interest rates.

Gold fell from record highs as the dollar strengthened ahead of key jobs data due later in the day and inflation reports out next week. Oil headed for a second weekly gain due to a worsening conflict in the Middle East.

Israel's military was kept on full alert in anticipation of a potential retaliatory strike from Iran following its strike on an Iranian compound in Syria.

Financial markets in mainland China were closed for a public holiday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended little changed at 16,723.92 after a choppy session as traders returned from a holiday on Thursday.

Japanese stocks slumped as rate concerns weighed on the tech sector and the yen rebounded from recent losses to a two-week high on concerns that sticky inflation could elicit more interest rate hikes by the Bank of Japan.

The Nikkei 225 Index plunged 2.0 percent to 38,992.08, setting a three-week low. The broader Topix Index settled 1.1 percent lower at 2,702.62.

Seoul stocks ended lower, with the Kospi slumping 1.0 percent to 2,714.21. Heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell nearly 1 percent despite forecasting a more than 10-fold rise in its first-quarter operating profit.

Australian markets ended lower, weighed down by losses in the banking and mining sectors. The benchmark S&P ASX 200 Index dropped 0.6 percent to 7,773.30 as data showed Australia's trade balance hit a five-month low in February as a result of a decline in iron ore exports. The broader All Ordinaries Index slid 0.6 percent to 8,026.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ended down 0.2 percent at 12,012.24 ahead of a central bank meeting next week, with economists expecting the central bank to leave its key interest rates unchanged for a sixth consecutive meeting.

U.S. stocks ended sharply lower overnight after a late-day sell-off amid concerns that higher energy prices will keep inflation elevated and could force the Fed to delay its first cut to interest rates.

Investors also reacted to hawkish comments from Fed officials and data showing a rise in weekly jobless claims to a two-month high last week.

The Dow and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite both slumped around 1.4 percent, while the S&P 500 shed 1.2 percent.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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