AFP - Asian stocks mostly fell yesterday following losses in New York while concerns about the global outlook were reinforced after data showed the US economy grew at its slowest pace for two years in the first quarter.
Investors were still coming to terms with the Bank of Japan’s decision not to boost its stimulus, with the yen at 18-month highs against the dollar, while analysts warned central banks’ weapons were becoming less effective.
Hong Kong ended 1.5 percent lower, while Seoul closed 0.3 percent down. Shanghai ended off 0.3 percent, although Sydney rose 0.5 percent. Taipei slipped 1.1 percent after figures showed the island’s economy shrank in the first three months, prolonging a recession that started last year, as its key export sector dived. The US Commerce Department said Thursday that the world’s number one economy grew 0.5 percent in January- March, almost half the pace expected, and the worst reading since 2014 as consumer spending sputtered
The news seemed to justify the Federal Reserve’s decision not to raise interest rates and to lower its expectations for any more hikes this year. However, it was the latest item of bad news for investors after the BoJ held fire on monetary policy despite slack Japanese growth, falling prices and a deadly earthquake that caused the closure of factories.
Oil extends gains “Central banks look like they have run out of bullets to a degree,” Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners in Wellington, told Bloomberg News. “We’re getting to that point where there are limits to the results they can get from anything more they do. This points to a fragile outlook with still a lot of risks out there.”
The downcast outlook and lack of movement from the Fed or BoJ has pushed the yen up against the dollar. The greenback sank to 107.00 yen in the afternoon -- at levels not seen since Japan last beefed up its stimulus in late 2014.
The weaker greenback provided further support to oil, which is priced in dollars making it cheaper for holders of other currencies. Both main contracts -- West Texas Intermediate and Brent -- rose to fresh 2016 highs Friday, topping off another strong week that saw US production fall. Confidence in the crude market has picked up in recent weeks as China’s economy shows small signs of picking up, while US borrowing costs are expected to be kept low for the nearterm.
US shares ended sharply lower, driven by news that investor tycoon Carl Icahn had liquidated his Apple stocks owing to concerns China would thwart its efforts to sell more iPhones and other gadgets in the country. In European early trade London and Frankfurt lost 0.8 percent and Paris shed 1.25 percent.