Market

Asian shares mostly rise as markets digest Fed moves

Tokyo, Asian shares mostly rose Friday, as investors digested the latest message from the U.S. Federal Reserve on raising short-term interest rates by late 2023, said an AP report.

The Bank of Japan kept its ultra-lax monetary policy intact, as investors had expected. Wrapping up a two-day meeting, the central bank also extended by six months, until March 2022, a lending program to help companies weather the pandemic.

“Japan’s economy has picked up as a trend, although it has remained in a severe situation due to the impact of COVID-19 at home and abroad,” the Bank of Japan said in a statement.

The Fed’s comments came Wednesday, and global markets had already initially reacted Thursday. But comments about the possibility of slowing the central bank’s bond-buying program are rippling through markets. Such support has been a key reason for the stock market’s resurgence to records.

The S&P 500 slipped less than 0.1% to 4,221.86 after meandering from a 0.2% gain to a 0.7% loss. Most of the stocks in the index and across Wall Street were lower, but gains for Apple, Microsoft and a few other tech heavyweights helped offset the losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.6% to 33,823.45, while the Nasdaq composite rose 0.9%, to 14,161.35, lifted by the gains for tech and other high-growth stocks.

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note gave back nearly all of its spurt from a day before. It fell back to 1.51% from 1.57% late Wednesday.

The two-year yield, which tends to move more with expectations for Fed actions, was steadier. It rose to 0.22% from 0.21%.

The first action the Fed is likely to take would be a slowdown in its $120 billion of monthly bond purchases, which are helping to keep mortgages cheap, but the Fed’s chair said such a tapering is still likely “a ways away.”

Any easing up on the Fed’s aid for the economy would be a big change for markets, which have feasted on easy conditions after the central bank slashed short-term rates to zero and brought in other emergency programs.

While the economy still needs support, the recovery is proving to be strong enough that it does not need the same emergency measures taken at the beginning of the pandemic, said Stephanie Link, chief investment strategist and portfolio manager at Hightower.

The economy has begun to explode out of its coma as more widespread vaccinations help the world get closer to normal. At the same time, jumps in prices for raw materials are forcing companies across the economy to raise their own prices for customers, from fast food to used cars.

Stocks of companies whose profits are most closely tied to the strength of the economy and to interest rates had some of the market’s sharpest losses.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 39 cents to $70.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell $1.11 to $71.04 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 50 cents to $72.58 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar fell to 110.03 Japanese yen from 110.23 yen. The euro inched down to $1.1907 from $1.1908.

Source: Bahrain News Agency