Asian stock markets rise; oil demand fears hit energy firms

Most Asian markets rose yesterday as forecast-beating earnings from Apple provided a much-needed bounce for the tech sector, though energy companies dropped on concerns about slowing US oil demand as supplies climb. Investors ignored a retreat on Wall Street, where all three main indexes were weighed by disappointment that the Federal Reserve brushed off weak inflation and dented hopes for a possible interest rate cut.Regional traders were in buying mood as most of the region returned from the May Day break looking to jump back into technology after Apple surged 4.9% on better-than-expected quarterly results.


Pedestrians walk past an electronic ticker board displaying stock figures outside the Exchange Square complex, which houses the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The bourse gained 0.8% to 29,944.18 points yesterday.

The result was welcome news after Google parent Alphabet, and Samsung Electronics, surprised on the downside and sparked a sharp sell-off in the sector. Hong Kong-listed AAC Technologies jumped more than 3% and market heavyweight Tencent added 0.9%, while Apple supplier Foxconn was well up in Taipei and Samsung added 0.1% in Seoul. The gains were reflected on stock markets with Hong Kong up 0.8% at 29,944.18, Seoul rising 0.4%, Wellington surging 1.2% and Taipei 0.3% higher. Manila, Bangkok and Mumbai also rose but Sydney slipped 0.6% and Singapore was off 0.5%. Tokyo and Shanghai were closed for public holidays. Investors remain on edge over the global outlook, which has rattled markets in recent weeks, with the US economy performing broadly better than elsewhere.

The positive performance in Asia came despite the negative lead from New York, where traders were jolted by Fed boss Jerome Powell’s assessment of recent weak inflation as being only “transitory”. The comments came after the Fed’s latest policy meeting and sank faint hopes the bank would announce a rate cut later in the year. It also went against a call from Donald Trump to ease borrowing costs to help bolster the economy. OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya said there was little chance of such a move any time soon. “The press conference delivered a clear message that rate cuts are not happening anytime soon as inflation should pick up,” he said in a note. “The expectations for healthier growth later in the year, however, suggest the downside risks are fading.

If we see this patient period end with stronger momentum, the Fed may need to reconsider tightening if we do see that pick up with inflation.” JP Morgan Asset Management global market strategist Kerry Craig added: “Powell may have to work on his bedside manner. In this case, the patient (ie markets) thought their diagnosis would merit stronger medicine, but instead all they got was a prescription to ‘be patient’.” Adding to the upbeat mood was optimism over the China-US trade talks, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin describing a high-level two-day meeting in Beijing as “productive”. Chinese negotiators head to Washington next week for another round, with CNBC citing unnamed sources as saying a deal could be signed next Friday. The Fed’s refusal to hint at a rate cut pushed the dollar up against the yen and most higher-yielding currencies, though it was slightly lower against the pound and euro. Oil extended losses after US crude inventories and production jumped, overshadowing concerns about the end of US waivers on countries buying Iranian oil and Venezuela’s deepening political crisis. The drop in crude prices hit energy firms, with CNOOC down 2% in Hong Kong and PetroChina 1.6% off while Woodside Petroleum and Santos tumbled in Sydney.

Sources and photo-credits: AFP, Gulf Times