Stock market today: Asian shares are mostly higher ahead of a US report on inflation

Shares are mostly higher in Asia ahead of a report on inflation in the U.S. that could sway the Federal Reserve's timing on cutting interest rates

Elaine Kurtenbach
Tuesday 12 March 2024 07:32 GMT

Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Tuesday ahead of a report on inflation in the U.S. that could sway the Federal Reserve’s timing on cutting interest rates.

U.S. futures and oil prices were higher.

Japan's Nikkei 225 lost less than 0.1% to 38,797.51, retreating further from its recent record highs as expectations build that the central bank will raise its negative benchmark interest rate next month.

That speculation has pushed the Japanese yen higher against the U.S. dollar. Early Tuesday, the dollar was trading at 147.41 yen, up from 146.95 yen. Recently the dollar was trading at about 150 yen.

Chinese markets were mixed, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng up 3.2% at 17,124.19, led by property developers and technology companies.

Financially challenged developer Country Garden's shares jumped 5.2%. China Evergrande, which is struggling to repay debts amounting to over $300 billion, jumped nearly 28%, and Sunac China Holding added 10%.

Online food delivery company Meituan surged 4.9% and e-commerce company jumped 10%.

The Shanghai Composite index retreated, losing 0.4% to 3,055.94.

Elsewhere in Asia, the S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1% higher to 7,712.50. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.8% to 2,681.81.

On Monday, the S&P 500 slipped 0.1% to 5,117.94, remaining near its all-time high set Thursday.

Prices have been buoyed by expectations that cuts to interest rates are coming this year and by signals that the economy remains remarkably resilient.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.1% to 38,769.66 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.4% to 16,019.27.

Tuesday’s report on prices Americans pay could show inflation remained at 3.1% in February, if economists’ forecasts are correct.

A month ago, a hotter-than-expected report on inflation at the consumer level sent financial markets spinning.

But the trend for inflation has been mostly downward, cooling toward the Fed’s 2% target from its peak above 9%. Fed Chair Jerome Powell Jerome Powell said last week the Fed is “not far” from getting enough confidence about inflation to begin cutting rates. Cuts to the Fed's main interest rate, which is at its highest level since 2001, would relax pressure on the economy and financial system, while goosing investment prices.

The general expectation among traders is that the Fed will begin cutting rates in June.

Expectations for easier interest rates have helped the price of gold rally to a record. When bonds pay less in interest, investors lose out on less income by owning gold instead. Gold for delivery in April ticked up by $3.10 to settle at $2,188.60 per ounce. Gold prices are up about 17% over the last 12 months.

Bitcoin, which proponents sometimes pitch as “digital gold,” also rallied to another record. It rose to nearly $73,000 after sitting below $17,000 at the start of last year. It's more than bounced back from its prior prior peak of nearly $69,000.

On Wall Street, Oracle rose 1.5% before it released its latest earnings report after trading finished for the day. Its profit topped analysts' expectations, and its stock rose more in afterhours trading.

On the losing end was natural-gas producer EQT, which sank 7.8% for the biggest drop in the S&P 500. It said it will buy Equitrans Midstream and its gas transmission and storage systems in an all-stock deal that values the combined company at $35 billion. Equitrans Midstream rose 1.5%.

Nvidia swung through a shaky day after coming off a 5.5% drop on Friday, which was its worst day since May. Nvidia is still up more than 70% this year after more than tripling last year amid a frenzy on Wall Street around artificial-intelligence technology.

Reddit said it may raise up to $748 million through the sale of stock to investors on an exchange for the first time. The social media company expects its stock to trade under the “RDDT” ticker symbol.

In other trading early Tuesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil was up 25 cents at $78.18 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 8 cents to $77.93 per barrel on Monday.

Brent crude, the international standard, added 33 cents to $83.54 per barrel.

The euro rose to $1.0937 from $1.0927.

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