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Asian stocks follow Wall St lower ahead of US jobs update

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney declined. Oil prices edged lower.

Asian stocks follow Wall St lower ahead of US jobs update

LONDON: Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Friday ahead of an update on United States employment amid worries about possible further interest rate hikes.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney declined. Oil prices edged lower.

Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index fell Thursday by its biggest one-day margin this year after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned rates might be raised faster than expected to cool stubbornly high inflation.

Traders looked ahead to US government hiring data Friday following other indicators that show the job market has stayed strong despite repeated interest rate hikes. That's good for workers, but Fed officials worry rising wages might fuel inflation, which might lead to more rate hikes to cool business activity and hiring.

Fed officials are "clearly messaging that rates will move higher," said Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency Economics in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.9 per cent to 3,246.16 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo tumbled 1.2 per cent to 28,291.89. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slid 2.4 per cent to 19,460.27.

The Kospi in Seoul gave up 1.3 per cent to 2,388.58 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 lost 1.8 per cent to 7,181.00.

New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets declined.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 1.9 per cent to 3,918.32, further eroding gains from earlier in the year. Some 95 per cent of companies in the benchmark index declined.

SVB Financial Group lost 60 per cent of its value after announcing plans to raise up to USD 1.75 billion to strengthen its financial position amid concerns about higher interest rates and the economy. Bank of America, Citigroup and other big banks fell sharply.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.7 per cent to 32,254.86. The Nasdaq composite sank 2.1 per cent to 11,338.35.

Powell said earlier in the week the Fed was ready to impose more big rate hikes if necessary. That added to fears the Fed and other central banks might push the global economy into at least a brief recession to extinguish inflation.

A government report on Thursday showed the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week jumped by the most in five months but layoffs are low.

Yields on the two-year Treasury, which tends to track expectations for future Fed action, eased to 4.87 per cent from about 5.05 per cent just before the unemployment report's release. It had been hovering at its highest level in 16 years.

A report Wednesday showed the number of job openings advertised across the country last month was higher than economists expected.

Traders expect the Fed to raise its benchmark lending rate by an unusually large margin of 0.5 percentage points at its March 22 meeting. That is up from an expectation of 0.25 points before Powell's comments this week, according to CME Group.

US inflation edged up to 5.4 per cent in January, well above the Fed target of 2 per cent. The central bank has already raised its key rate to a range of 4.50 to 4.75 per cent, up from close to zero at the start of 2022, its fastest set of hikes in decades.

Companies have been cautious about their prospects through 2023.

General Motors fell 4.9 per cent after joining a long list of companies with plans to trim its workforce amid worries about a recession. Many companies are coming off of a weak fourth quarter.

Economists expect profits to fall through the first half of 2023.

JPMorgan Chase fell 5.4 per cent after the bank sued its former executive Jes Staley, alleging that he aided in hiding Jeffrey Epstein's yearslong sex abuse and trafficking in order to keep the financier as a client.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude lost 41 cents to USD 75.31 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 94 cents the previous session to USD 75.72. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, declined 33 cents to USD 81.26 per barrel in London. It sank USD 1.07 the previous session to USD 81.59.

The dollar gained to 136.57 yen from Thursday's 136.17 yen. The euro rose to USD 1.0592 from USD 1.0578.

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