BEIJING – Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Thursday after a listless day of trading on Wall Street as the recent bout of nerves over Federal Reserve policy fades.
Markets advanced in Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong while Sydney and Shanghai declined.
Markets have calmed notably since the Federal Reserve surprised investors last week by saying it could start raising short-term interest rates by late 2023, earlier than expected.
The super-low rates the Fed engineered to carry the economy through the pandemic have propped up prices across markets, and any change would be a big deal. That’s why the Fed’s announcement triggered an immediate drop for stocks and rise in Treasury yields.
Now, investors are focusing more on how it may be still be years before the first rate hike hits, particularly as Fed officials say they still see the high inflation sweeping the economy as only a temporary problem.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index edged less than 0.1% higher to 28,888.52 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng also was less than 0.1% higher. In Seoul, the Kospi added 0.3% to 3,286.00.
The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.2% to 3,561.01, while Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1% lower.
Shares rose in India and Taiwan but fell in Southeast Asia.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500 slipped 0.1% to 4,241.84 after meandering between very modest gains and losses. It’s 0.3% below its record high set a week and a half ago.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2% to 33,874.24, while the Nasdaq composite added to its record set a day before, inching up 0.1% to 14,271.73.
Most stocks in the S&P 500 fell, but gains for financial companies and others that do best when the economy is healthy helped limit the losses.
Before the Fed raises rates for the first time since 2018, it will likely first have to reduce the bond purchases it’s making to keep longer-term interest rates low. Then it will actually begin tapering, before ending tapering and then signaling that a rate hike is coming.
In the meantime, the economy continues to roar higher, and corporate profits are soaring.
If higher inflation persists, the central bank will have to get more aggressive about raising rates.
The latest data on inflation will come on Friday with the release of the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge. It will cover May, which the consumer price index has already said saw year-over-year inflation of 5%.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury inched up to 1.49% from 1.48% late Wednesday.
Preliminary readings on the economy in June from IHS Markit showed manufacturing is growing at a stronger pace than economists expected, but growth for services industries fell short of forecasts.
Sales of new homes in May also failed to meet economists' forecasts, with the second straight monthly decline. Apart from a shortage of homes on the market, inflation has also been driving prices higher because of increased costs for lumber and other building materials.
In other trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil picked up 8 cents to $73.16 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 23 cents to $73.08 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 6 cents to $74.56 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar rose to 111.00 Japanese yen from 110.99 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1926 from $1.1930.