Stock market today: Asian benchmarks mostly climb despite worries about US economy

TOKYO — Asian shares mostly rose Friday despite worries about the economic outlook and inflation in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

The Bank of Japan ended a policy meeting with no major changes, keeping its benchmark interest rate in a range of 0 to 0.1%. In March, it raised the key rate from minus 0.1%, citing signs that inflation had reached the central bank’s target of about 2%.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.8% to 37,934.76, while the U.S. dollar edged up to 156.22 Japanese yen from 155.58 yen.

Although a weak yen is a boon for giant Japanese exporters such as Toyota Motor Corp., whose overseas earnings are boosted when converted into yen, some Japanese officials, including Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, have been raising concern that an overly weak currency is not good for the Japanese economy in the long run.

In other currency trading, the euro cost $1.0740, up from $1.0733.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.4% to 7,575.90. South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.1% to 2,656.33. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 2.3% to 17,680.43, while the Shanghai Composite rose 1.1% to 3,087.60.

On Thursday, Wall Street was lower with worries about a potentially toxic cocktail combining stubbornly high inflation with a flagging economy. A sharp drop in Facebook’s parent company, one of Wall Street’s most influential stocks, also hurt the market.

The S&P 500 fell 0.5% to 5,048.42. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1% to 38,085.80 and the Nasdaq composite sank 0.6% to 15,611.76.

Meta Platforms, the company behind Facebook and Instagram, dropped 10.6% even though it reported better profit for the latest quarter than analysts had expected. Investors focused instead on the big investments in artificial intelligence that Meta pledged to make. AI has created a frenzy on Wall Street, but Meta is increasing its spending as it also gave a forecasted range for upcoming revenue whose midpoint fell below analysts’ expectations.

Expectations had built high for Meta, along with the other “Magnificent Seven” stocks that drove most of the stock market’s returns last year. They need to hit a high bar to justify their high stock prices.

The entire U.S. stock market felt the pressure of another rise in Treasury yields following a disappointing report that said the growth of the U.S. economy slowed to a 1.6% annual rate during the first three months of this year from 3.4% at the end of 2023.

That undercut a hope that’s sent the S&P 500 to record after record this year: that the economy can avoid a deep recession and support strong profits for companies, even if high inflation takes a while to get fully under control.

That’s what Wall Street calls a “soft landing” scenario, and expectations had grown recently for a “no landing” in which the economy avoids a recession completely.

Thursday’s economic data will likely get revised a couple times as the U.S. government fine-tunes the numbers. But the lower-than-expected growth and higher-than-expected inflation is “a bit of a slap in the face to those hoping for a ‘no landing’ scenario,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief economist at Annex Wealth Management.

Treasury yields still climbed as traders pared bets for cuts to rates this year by the Federal Reserve.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 4.70% from 4.66% just before the report and from 4.65% late Wednesday.

Traders are largely betting on the possibility of just one or maybe two cuts to interest rates this year by the Fed, if any, according to data from CME Group. They came into the year forecasting six or more. A string of reports this year showing inflation remaining hotter than forecast has crushed those expectations.

In energy trading Friday, benchmark U.S. crude edged up 37 cents to $83.94 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 40 cents to $89.41 a barrel.


AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

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