Monday, 23 May, 2022

Asian stocks down as inflation fears churn markets

HONG KONG: Asian equities slumped on Thursday following Wall Street's lead, as markets churned after a key US report renewed fears of inflation and a tightening of monetary policies.

Stocks have been volatile for much of 2022, fuelled by China's Covid-19 lockdowns, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and surging inflation that has dampened consumer sentiment, reports AFP.

Investors had been looking to the US consumer price report in hopes that easing inflation would lower pressure on the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates, but the rise of 8.3 percent was higher than expected.

"The April inflation report came in hotter-than-expected and triggered a complete reset in Fed rate hike expectations," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA. "Wall Street thought it was going to be done with inflation rearing its ugly head, but that does not appear to be the case." Inflation is still expected to decelerate over the next few months, he said, "but it won't be sharp given the rising prices on gas, hotel, airfares", as well as the impact of China's Covid lockdowns on supply chains and exports. Americans have felt the pinch of rising food prices, including big increases in dairy and cereal products.

The index for meat, poultry, fish and eggs surged 14.3 percent -- the biggest gain since May 1979. US President Joe Biden called April's overall slow-down "heartening" -- March saw a peak of 8.5 percent -- but acknowledged inflation was still a major challenge, and said "bringing it down is my top economic priority."