Asian markets follow Wall Street higher ahead of US key inflation update

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Asian Markets News: Stocks were mostly higher on Wednesday after a rally on Wall Street that took the Nasdaq composite index to a record high. A report Tuesday showed that prices remain stubbornly high at the wholesale level in the United States, before many price changes are passed along to consumers, with the producer price index reading for April reaching 0.5 per cent, higher than forecast.

The rate of inflation has been ticking higher in 2024, raising concerns that the Federal Reserve could have a hard time taming inflation to its goal of 2 per cent. But investors were reassured by comments made by Fed Chair Jerome Powell. Speaking at a panel discussion in Amsterdam on Tuesday, he reaffirmed that the US central bank won’t likely raise its key interest rate to respond to stubborn inflation.

But he also said that his confidence that inflation will ease is “not as high as it was” because price increases have been persistently hot in the first three months of this year.

A bigger test for markets comes later Wednesday, when the US will release its monthly update on consumer prices, or inflation faced by households. Economists expect the consumer price index to ease to 3.4 per cent in April on a year-over-year basis.

In Asian trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.4 per cent to 38,491.15 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.4 per cent to 7,760.40. In China, the Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.4 per cent to 3,133.47 after the central bank kept a key lending rate unchanged Wednesday, signaling Beijing’s focus on maintaining monetary stability.

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s Taiex gained 1.4 per cent and in Bangkok the SET was virtually unchanged.

Markets in South Korea and Hong Kong were closed for a holiday.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 index rose 0.5 per cent to 5,246.68, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 per cent to 39,558.11.

The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily influenced by technology stocks, jumped 0.8 per cent to 16,511.18. The tech sector has been a driving force for much of the broader market’s gains this year.

Several “meme” stocks, including GameStop and AMC Entertainment, raced higher in a reprise of the social-media driven frenzy of three years ago. GameStop jumped 60.1 per cent and AMC rose 32 per cent. Both stocks gave back much of their gains from earlier in the day.

Bond yields edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 4.44 per cent from 4.49 per cent late Monday. Investors have been curtailing their expectations for the speed and frequency of interest rate cuts this year as inflation remains hotter than expected. Traders are betting on one or two rate cuts this year, according to data from CME Group.

Wall Street is still hoping the Fed can pull off its “soft landing,” where high interest rates work to cool inflation without slowing the economy into a recession. The economy remains strong, but consumers might be showing signs of fatigue under the weight of stubborn inflation. Economists expect a retail sales report on Wednesday to show that consumer spending softened in April, just as it has over the last several months.

In other trading, benchmark US crude added 72 cents to $78.74 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 65 cents to $83.03 a barrel.

In currency trading, the US dollar slipped to 156.38 Japanese yen from 156.42 yen. The euro cost $1.0824, up from $1.0820.