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South Korea slips as it leads Asia-Pacific losses; oil drops more than 3%

SINGAPORE — Shares in the Asia-Pacific region mostly traded lower on Wednesday, as economic fears continue to weigh on the market.

Oil futures declined more than 3% in Asia trade. International benchmark Brent crude futures slipped 3.16% to $111.03 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also dropped by 3.84% to $105.68 per barrel.

Reuters reported that U.S. President Joe Biden plans to call for a temporary suspension of the 18.4-cents a gallon federal tax on gasoline in a bid to bring down soaring energy costs.

Among regional stock indexes, South Korea led losses, with the Kospi falling 2.03%, and the Kosdaq dropping 3.08%. SK Hynix was down 3.15% and Naver dropped 4.59%.

Markets in mainland China slid. The Shanghai Composite slid 0.45%, and the Shenzhen Component was down 0.65%.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 1.19%, and the Hang Seng Tech index dropped 2.28%. Alibaba slipped 2.27%.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 hovered around the flatline, while the Topix was 0.16% higher.

The rebound in U.S. equities overnight … will be taken with a pinch of salt as elevated inflation and risks to growth persist.
Lavanya Venkateswaran
economist, Mizuho Bank

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia slipped 0.36%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan declined 1.23%.

Major indexes in the U.S. jumped on Tuesday after weeks of declines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 641.47 points or 2.15% to 30,530.25, while the S&P 500 rose 2.45% to 3,764.79. The tech-focused Nasdaq advanced 2.51% to 11,069.302.

“The rebound in U.S. equities overnight … will be taken with a pinch of salt as elevated inflation and risks to growth persist,” Lavanya Venkateswaran, an economist at Mizuho Bank, said in a note.

The Bank of Japan, after maintaining its ultra-low interest rates last week, released the minutes from its April monetary policy meeting on Wednesday morning.

“Many members expressed the view that underlying inflation, measured by the CPI excluding such factors as energy, remained relatively low,” the minutes said.

Most members of BOJ policy board expect short-term and long-term interest rates to remain at their present levels or lower, the minutes added.

The Japanese yen crossed the 136 level on Tuesday and was last at 136.10 against the greenback. The currency has been weakening as the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy diverges from that of the Fed.

Experts previously told CNBC that the main focus of the central bank is not exchange rates but inflation.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, last traded at 104.615.

The Australian dollar was at $0.6924, after falling from levels above $0.702 late last week.

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