Asian stocks follow Wall St lower on economy fears

Asian stock markets are mostly lower after Wall Street fell on fears interest rate hikes will depress global economic activity

Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Friday on fears global economic activity will be depressed by interest rate hikes to cool inflation.

Shanghai, Tokyo and Sydney fell while Hong Kong advanced. Oil prices edged lower but stayed above $115 per barrel.

Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index tumbled 3.3% on Thursday after Britain's central bank followed the Federal Reserve in raising its key interest rate to cool surging prices. Central banks in Switzerland and Taiwan also raised rates.

Investors worry the moves to control inflation that is running at four-decade highs might tip the U.S. and other major economies into recession.

“Pain is being inflicted almost everywhere and sharing doesn’t make it better in any way,” said Tan Boon Heng of Mizuho Bank in a report.

Markets were not assuaged by comments by President Joe Biden to The Associated Press on Thursday that he saw reasons for optimism about the economy.

A recession is “not inevitable,” Biden said.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4% to 3,270.52 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 2.2% to 25,858.50. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.4% to 20,924.49.

The Kospi in Seoul retreated 1.1% to 2,425.30 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 tumbled 2.2% to 6,447.30.

India's Sensex opened down 0.4% at 3,086.74. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets declined.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 retreated to 3,666.77 for its sixth decline in the past seven trading sessions. All but 3% of stocks in the index fell.

The benchmark gave up its 1.5% gain of the previous day after the Fed announced a rate hike of 0.75 percentage points, three times is usual margin. Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday the Fed is “not trying to induce a recession now."

The S&P 500 is 23.6% below its Jan. 3 record. That erases gains from 2021, one of Wall Street's best years this century.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2.4% to 3,666.77. The Nasdaq dropped 4.1% to 10,646.10.

Japan's central bank wrapped up a two-day meeting Friday with no major changes to its ultra-low interest rate policy, imposed years ago to try to fend of deflation, or sinking prices. So far, it has avoided raising its benchmark rate of minus 0.1%.

Along with increasing interest rates, the Fed is allowing some of the trillions of dollars of bonds it purchased through the pandemic to roll off its balance sheet. That should put upward pressure on longer-term interest rates.

Fewer American workers filed for unemployment benefits last week than a week before, a report showed on Thursday. But more signs of trouble have been emerging.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. oil lost $1.03 to $116.56 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.27 on Thursday to $117.58. Brent crude, the price basis for international trading, sank 93 cents to $118.88 per barrel in London. It gained $1.30 the previous session to $119.81.

The dollar gained to 133.85 yen from Thursday's 132.00 yen. The euro declined to $1.0522 from $1.0573.

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