Stock markets mixed as traders weigh dark outlook

Shares in US-based Snap, parent of social media app Snapchat, plunged 40 percent on Tuesday

Shares in US-based Snap, parent of social media app Snapchat, plunged 40 percent on Tuesday


SYDNEY - Markets were mixed Wednesday, with little sign of any relief from recent dour performances as investors remain fearful about the economic outlook owing to the impact of inflation, higher interest rates, China's slowdown and the Ukraine war.

A series of weak indicators around the world and downbeat forecasts from big firms have chilled trading floors in recent weeks as the surge in prices begins to drag on consumer confidence, with warnings now swirling of a possible global recession.

The tech sector was again in the firing line after Snap, the parent of social media app Snapchat, provided a gloomy economic outlook, sending its shares diving more than 40 percent.

Wall Street titans followed Snap down, with Facebook-parent Meta and Google-parent Alphabet tanking.

The mood was not helped by news that US new home sales tanked in April while the Richmond Fed manufacturing index also fell, with both at the lowest levels since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020.

"The market is moving its focus -- and has been for the last month or so -- from inflation concerns to growth concerns," said Ellen Hazen of FL Putnam.

Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, Manila and Bangkok rose, while Tokyo, Mumbai, Singapore, Jakarta and Wellington fell.

London, Paris and Frankfurt rose after tanking on Tuesday.

Investors are now awaiting the Fed's next move on interest rates, with expectations for more half-point hikes to come as officials struggle to bring inflation down from four-decade highs.

There was a little hope after one policymaker, Atlanta Fed chief Raphael Bostic, suggested a break in the increases in September could make sense as the bank tries to avert a recession.

National Australia Bank's Tapas Strickland said that, while it was not clear that the Fed was close to being more supportive of markets, "it is clear that growth headwinds are becoming more evident in the data, particularly stemming from the profit reporting season". 

"The Fed of course remains focused on inflation, but if inflation reads were to start to moderate, then Bostic has opened up the possibility of a Fed pause."

Minutes from the Fed's most recent policy meeting are due later in the day and will be closely watched for an idea about its plans. 

Meanwhile, China continues to struggle with the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant, with leaders sticking to their zero-Covid strategy despite the dire impact on the economy of lockdowns.

And with no easing of that policy in sight, observers warned that a series of recent support measures would not be enough to lift optimism.

"Fiscal multipliers will be minimal in an economy where economic interaction and activity have slowed sharply," said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.

"Moving beyond mobility restrictions in short order is a pre-condition, but not a guarantee, for an Asia-led economic recovery."


- Key figures at around 0720 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 26,677.80 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.5 percent at 20,201.89 

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 3,107.46 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,525.38

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0687 from $1.0739 on Tuesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2542 from $1.2535

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.20 pence from 85.64 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 127.08 yen from 126.86 yen 

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.8 percent at $114.49 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.8 percent at $110.65 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.2 percent at 31,928.62 (close)


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