Stock market today: Asian markets are mixed ahead of what traders hope will be a final Fed rate hike

Asian stock markets are mixed after Wall Street hit a 15-month high ahead of a Federal Reserve meeting that traders hope will end with the final increase in this interest rate cycle

Joe McDonald
Wednesday 26 July 2023 07:52 BST

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Asian stock markets were mixed Wednesday after Wall Street hit a 15-month high ahead of what traders hope will be the Federal Reserve's final increase in this interest rate cycle.

Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul declined. Tokyo and Sydney advanced. Oil prices retreated.

Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.3% on Tuesday after companies reported bigger profits than expected.

On Wednesday, investors expect the Fed to raise its key lending rate by 0.25 percentage points to a 22-year high. They hope the U.S. central bank can manage a “soft landing,” extinguishing inflation while avoiding a recession.

“This could be the last rate hike for the Fed” as inflation pressures ease, Brad Bernstein of UBS Wealth Management said in a report. Bernstein said central banks in Europe and Japan also are “near their pivot points” on their own rate hike cycles.

Meanwhile, traders waited to see how China's ruling Communist Party will carry out its promise to shore up sluggish economic growth. The ruling party has pledged to support entrepreneurs and the struggling real estate industry but gave no details.

That leaves “room for disappointment if the stimulus details were to lack conviction,” Yeap Jun Rong of IG said in a report.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 0.6% to 19,309.22, giving up part of Tuesday's 4.1% surge following the Chinese announcement. The Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.6% to 3,216.21. It rose 2.1% the previous session.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose less than 0.1% to 32,688.91 while Kospi in Seoul lost 1.7% to 2,591.70.

Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.8% to 7,395.30 after the government reported Australian inflation eased to 5.4% in June from the previous month's 5.5%, reducing pressure on the central bank for another interest rate hike to cool upward pressure on prices.

India's Sensex opened up 0.7% at 66,802.74. Bangkok declined while New Zealand and other Southeast Asian markets advanced.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose to 4,567.46 for its highest close since early April 2022.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.1% to 35,438.07. The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.6% to 14,144.56.

General Electric rallied 6.3% rally after it reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its forecasts for full-year revenue and profit.

Another industrial giant, 3M, rose 5.3% after the maker of Scotch-Brite and Post-It raised its forecast for profits for the full year due to cost cutting. Home builder PulteGroup climbed 6.2% after reporting stronger profit for the spring than expected.

Alaska Air Group fell 9.7% despite reporting stronger profit and revenue. Analysts said investors may have been disappointed with its financial forecasts for the current quarter.

About 30% of the companies in the S&P 500 are due to report earnings this week.

The U.S. job market has remained unexpectedly strong, which has allowed U.S. households to keep spending and propping up the economy. A report on Tuesday showed confidence among U.S. consumers rose by more than economists expected.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 48 cents to $79.15 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 89 cents the previous session to $79.63. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, sank 49 cents to $82.76 per barrel in London. It gained 90 cents the previous session to $83.64.

The dollar declined to 140.88 yen from Tuesday's 141.04 yen. The euro gained to $1.1066 from $1.1045.

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