By Ambar Warrick
Investing.com — Most Asian stock markets fell on Wednesday as uncertainty over the path of U.S. monetary policy largely outweighed optimism over an economic recovery in China, with focus now turning to a slew of indicators from the Federal Reserve this week.
China’s Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 and Shanghai Composite indexes fell 0.5% and 0.3%, respectively, as an initial boost from better-than-expected first quarter GDP data on Tuesday appeared to have run out of steam.
While the data did indicate that a Chinese economic recovery was on track, signs of persistent weakness in the manufacturing sector pointed to an uneven rebound, despite the lifting of anti-COVID measures earlier this year.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.6%, extending losses into a second straight session as uncertainty over rising interest rates hurt technology stocks. The Taiwan Weighted index also lost 0.3%, while South Korea’s KOSPI was flat.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3% as the Reuters Tankan index showed that major manufacturers turned even more pessimistic over the business environment, amid laggard overseas demand.
Philippine stocks were the worst performers in Southeast Asia, losing 0.5%, while India’s Nifty 50 and BSE Sensex 30 indexes fell slightly in early trade.
Broader Asian stocks trended lower, tracking a muted overnight session on Wall Street following a slew of mixed quarterly earnings. Markets also grew more wary of more interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, following hawkish signals from several policymakers.
Focus is now on the Fed’s Beige Book report, due later on Wednesday, for the central bank’s take on the state of the U.S. economy. Fed Governors Christopher Waller and Lisa Cook are also set to speak later this week.
Fears of rising interest rates crept back into markets in recent sessions, as hawkish signals from Fed officials and signs of some resilience in the U.S. economy brewed uncertainty over when the Fed will pause its rate hike cycle.
Rising interest rates bode poorly for Asian markets as higher yields sap the appeal of risk-heavy assets, while also limiting flows of foreign capital into the region.
Among other movers on Wednesday, Australia’s ASX 200 index rose 0.1%, supported largely by gains in major mining stocks on the prospect of a Chinese economic recovery.
But shares of Star Entertainment Group Ltd (ASX:SGR), the country’s second-largest casino operator, plummeted 8% after the firm flagged weaker earnings and job cuts amid worsening operating conditions.