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Asian shares weaken on global growth concerns, Japan outperforms

2023-05-12 14:16
By Stella Qiu SYDNEY Most Asian share markets were subdued on Friday and the dollar held onto its
Asian shares weaken on global growth concerns, Japan outperforms

By Stella Qiu

SYDNEY Most Asian share markets were subdued on Friday and the dollar held onto its gains from safe-haven flows, after soft economic data from U.S. and China fuelled concerns of a global slowdown.

The mood looked set to brighten a little as European markets open. Pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures climbed 0.3%, Nasdaq futures rose 0.3% and S&P 500 futures were 0.2% higher.

In Asia, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6% and was headed for a weekly decline of 1.2%, weighed down by a slew of data from China that pointed to a sluggish economic recovery after the lift of COVID lockdowns.

Japanese shares outperformed, however, with the Nikkei climbing 0.9% to its highest level since November 2021, as investors cheered announcements of increased shareholder returns during earnings season. [.T]

China's bluechips fell 1.1% and looked poised to lose 1.7% for the week, while Hong Kong stocks were down 0.7% on the day.

China's economic recovery seems to be losing steam, with new bank loans tumbling sharply in April, consumer prices rising at the slowest pace in more than two years and imports unexpectedly contracting, driving a plunge in commodity prices from copper, iron ore to oil.[O/R]

Overight, data showed U.S. jobless claims jumped to a 1-1/2-year high last week, while producer prices rose at smallest annual increase in more than two years, hinting at potentially more abrupt slowing in the world's largest economy.

The data, however, added confidence that Federal Reserve is almost certain to pause its rate hikes at its policy meeting in June, with futures markets continuing to price in cuts of about 78 basis points by the end of the year.

"It's sort of a messy background for share markets and investment markets," said Shane Oliver, chief economist AMP in Sydney, noting the weaker global growth and return of bank worries.

"The silver lining in the cloud is inflationary pressures are diminishing, which takes pressure off central banks, notwithstanding the Bank of England continuing to hike."

Banking fears reverberated overnight. PacWest again led declines in U.S. regional banks with a sharp fall of 23% overnight, after it reported its deposits fell 9.5% last week.

Shares of U.S. big banks were also lower after the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) said big lenders would bear the cost of replenishing its deposit insurance fund caused by recent bank failures.

That pulled the Dow lower, although Nasdaq added 0.2%, supported by a 4.3% jump in Alphabet Inc on its rollout of more artificial intelligence products.

Uncertainty around raising U.S. debt ceiling persisted. A meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and top lawmakers that had been scheduled for Friday has been postponed to early next week, with the IMF warning that a U.S. default would have "serious repercussions" for the U.S. economy.

The U.S. dollar benefited from safe-haven flows amid growth concerns and banking worries, holding onto its 0.6% gain overnight at 102.02 against a basket of currencies. [FRX/]

The euro was reeling at $1.0925, just a touch above a one-month low, and sterling nursed losses at $1.2524, nearing a one-week low.

Treasury yields were slightly lower in Asia, after longer-dated yields declining further overnight on soft data. Benchmark 10-year notes were 2 basis points lower at 3.375%, while two-year yields were also 2 bps lower at 3.883%.

The Bank of England stuck to the script by raising its key interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 4.5% on Thursday. It, however, vowed that it would "stay the course" to curb the highest inflation of any major economy.

Oil is set to fall for a fourth straight week. U.S. crude futures edged 0.4% lower to $70.56 per barrel, while Brent crude eased 0.5% to $74.59 per barrel.

Gold prices were 0.2% lower at $2,011.41 per ounce.

(Reporting by Stella Qiu; Editing by Kim Coghill and Edwina Gibbs)