Beijing/Hong Kong — Asian shares wobbled while commodity prices fell on Thursday as mounting worry about the risks of a global recession amid aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve kept broad investor sentiment fragile.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan reversed earlier gains to be mostly flat in Asia trade. Stocks in South Korea were off, while Japan’s Nikkei was broadly unchanged.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 0.6%, following the news that Chinese President Xi Jinping chaired a top-level meeting on Wednesday that approved a plan for the healthy development of China’s large payment firms and fintech sector.
Overnight, the dollar fell alongside US treasury yields after Fed chair Jerome Powell, in testimony to the US Senate banking committee, acknowledged a recession was “certainly a possibility”, but the Fed is not trying to engineer one.
A Reuters poll showed the Fed will deliver another 75 basis point (bp) interest rate hike in July, followed by a half-percentage-point rise in September, and won’t scale back to quarter-percentage-point moves until November at the earliest.
“What is clear is the market views a recession as increasingly likely, a view heard from Powell, who detailed that a recession was a possibility but not their intention,” said Chris Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne.
“Equities have held in well despite the falls in commodities, altogether there has been rotation into low-risk areas of the market and defensive sectors, with predictable outflows from energy and materials stock.”
US stocks reversed earlier gains and ended the session slightly down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.15%, the S&P 500 lost 0.13%, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.15%.
Investors are continuing to assess the risks of central banks pushing the world economy into recession as they attempt to curb inflation with interest rate increases.
Concerns about the demand outlook have sapped commodity prices, with oil on Thursday falling to the lowest level in more than a month. Brent crude was down 2% to $109.49 per barrel and US crude declined 2.3% to $103.75 a barrel.
The yield on benchmark 10-year treasury notes were down slightly in early trade to 3.1430%, the lowest in almost two weeks, compared with its US close of 3.156% the previous day.
The two-year yield, which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 3.0391% compared with a US close of 3.056%.
In the foreign exchange markets, the dollar eased 0.1% against a basket of major currencies, following a 0.2% fall the previous session. However, the index was up more than 8% this year, reflecting the broad risk-off sentiment and the dollar’s Fed-driven yield advantage.
Those factors were underscored by the South Korean won, which fell below a psychological threshold of 1,300 to the dollar for the first time in 13 years, amid global economic recession worry.
Gold was slightly lower, with spot prices traded at $1835.19/oz.