ASX set to fall as Wall Street slumps on inflation figures; Bitcoin dives


Treasury yields initially jumped but pared their gains as the morning progressed. As the yields regressed, most stocks reversed their early losses.

The 10-year Treasury yield climbed as high as 3.08 per cent but fell back to 2.93 per cent in later trading, below its late-Tuesday level of 2.99 per cent. The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for Fed action, rose to 2.65 per cent from 2.62 per cent late on Tuesday. It had climbed as high as 2.75 per cent shortly after the report’s release.

To corral high inflation, the Fed has already pulled its key short-term interest rate off its record low near zero, where it spent most of the pandemic. It also said it may continue to hike rates by double the usual amount at upcoming meetings. Such moves by design would slow the economy, in hopes of quashing inflation.

The Fed risks causing a recession if it raises rates too high or too quickly. Even if it’s deft enough to avoid a downturn, higher rates push down on prices for stocks and all kinds of investments in the meantime. That’s because higher-yielding, safe Treasury bonds suddenly become a stronger competitor for investors’ dollars.

“The market’s main concern at this point is inflation and how the Fed reacts to it,” said David Lefkowitz, head of equities for the Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management. “In order for markets to get more comfortable with a soft landing, they are going to be focused on any of the inflation data and also any clues about how the Fed thinks about that inflation data.”

Higher rates are most hurting the investments that were the biggest winners of the ultra-low rates of the pandemic. That includes big technology companies, other high-growth stocks and even cryptocurrencies. The Nasdaq’s loss of roughly 26 per cent so far this year is considerably worse than the nearly 17 per cent drop for the S&P 500, for example.

Coinbase, a crypto trading platform, tumbled 26.4 per cent after it reported much weaker results for the latest quarter than analysts expected. Drops in crypto prices dragged on trading volumes through the quarter.

Several other companies made big moves following the release of their latest earnings results. Hamburger chain Wendy’s fell 11.2 per cent after reporting disappointing profits. Callaway Golf jumped 10.3 per cent and H&R Block surged 19.2 per cent after reporting encouraging financial results.

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It’s not just interest rates that are pushing markets lower. In China, shutdowns meant to stem COVID are raising the risk of more supply chain disruptions for global companies and a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

The war in Ukraine, meanwhile, is threatening to keep inflation high because of disruptions to the oil and natural gas markets.

Crude jumped again on Wednesday, with a barrel of benchmark US oil rising 5.7 per cent to $US105.45. Brent crude, the international standard, added 5.1 per cent to $US107.69.

That helped energy stocks in the S&P 500 climb. Exxon Mobil rose 2.1 per cent, and ConocoPhillips was 1 per cent higher.

AP

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