Asian markets fall ahead of Fed policy decision, tracking losses on Wall Street

Jihye Lee
Lim Hui Jie

This is CNBC's live blog covering Asia-Pacific markets.

The Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C.

Asia-Pacific markets largely fell Wednesday as investors look ahead to the U.S Federal Reserve's policy decision overnight.

Most economists surveyed by Reuters said said they expect the Fed to hike rates by 25 basis points, with the remainder forecasting a pause.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index led losses in the region and tumbled 1.34% in its final hour of trade, led by energy, industrials and healthcare stocks, while the Hang Seng Tech index slid 1.88%.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.96% to end the day at 7,197.4, while South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.91% to close at 2,501.4 and the Kosdaq saw a larger loss, falling 1.45% and ending the day at 843.18. Markets in Japan and mainland China are closed for a holiday Wednesday.

.N225Nikkei 225 IndexNIKKEI30,526.88-711.06-2.28%
.HSIHang Seng IndexHSI17,195.84-135.38-0.78%
.FTFCNBCACNBC 100 ASIA IDXCNBC 1007,880.33-100.67-1.26%

Overnight in the U.S., all three major indexes fell for a second-straight session as banking fears returned to Wall Street ahead of the Fed rate decision.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite fell 1.08% each, while the S&P 500 saw a slightly larger loss and slid 1.16%.

— CNBC's Hakyung Kim and Alex Harring contributed to this report

Wed, May 3 2023 1:18 AM EDT

Thai inflation eases for fourth-straight month to 2.67%

Thailand's headline inflation rate eased for a fourth straight month to 2.67% in April, while core inflation — which excludes food and energy costs — declined to 1.66%.

This is largely in line with economists expectations of 2.7% and 1.7% respectively.

Thailand's central bank has an agreement with the country's government to keep inflation within a target range of 1% to 3%.

The country achieved that target in March, bringing it down from last year's surge when it hit a high of 7.86% last August.

— Lim Hui Jie

Wed, May 3 2023 12:53 AM EDT

Australia's retail sales inched higher in March

Australia's preliminary retail sales rose 0.4% month-on-month in March, ticking higher than February's rise of 0.2%, government data showed Wednesday.

Discretionary retail seemed to be more under pressure with household goods falling 0.4%, as well as clothing, footwear, and personal accessories dropping 1%. Department store retailing also saw a contraction of 0.2% compared to a month ago.

Headline retail sales growth was mostly led by food retailing, driven by high food inflation seen in the Australian economy.

– Jihye Lee

Tue, May 2 2023 10:59 PM EDT

ING expects weakness in exports for Hong Kong market, revises growth forecasts downward

ING's chief economist for Greater China Iris Pang lowered her growth forecasts for Hong Kong, a day after the city reported gross domestic product grew 2.7% in the first quarter.

Speaking to CNBC's "Squawk Box Asia," Pang said she sees a recession in the U.S. "maybe around the fourth quarter" and expects the Fed to cut rates by 100 basis points by the end of 2023.

As a result, prospects for Hong Kong and mainland China's exports are "not going to be bright" in the second half of the year.

Pang cut her outlook for Hong Kong in the second half, bringing her full-year GDP growth forecast to 2.9%.

— Lim Hui Jie

Tue, May 2 2023 10:13 PM EDT

Hong Kong stocks snap four-day winning streak

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index snapped a four-day losing streak and fell roughly 2% in Asia's Wednesday morning.

The index fell 1.9%, hovering at its lowest levels since March 27.

The index was dragged lower by energy, industrials and consumer cyclical names: Alibaba Health Information Technology fell 4.5%, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp shed 4%, and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp shed 3.7%.

PetroChina also traded more than 3% lower.

See Chart...

– Jihye Lee

Tue, May 2 2023 9:38 PM EDT

Rate hike in Australia due to 'uncomfortably persistent' services inflation: Lowe

Australia's central bank governor Philip Lowe said "uncomfortably persistent" services inflation was one of the main reasons the Reserve Bank of Australia hiked its cash rate by 25 basis points in its Tuesday meeting to 3.85%.

In a Tuesday evening speech, Lowe explained that the inflation peak in Australia has passed, but added it will take some time before inflation comes back to the RBA's target range of 2-3%.

He acknowledged that inflation for goods is slowing, but inflation for services and energy is likely to remains elevated, adding that he also sees "worryingly persistent" services inflation overseas.

"It is possible that circumstances might be different here in Australia, but the experience abroad points to an upside risk, especially given the high degree of commonality across countries in inflation dynamics recently," Lowe said.

— Lim Hui Jie

Tue, May 2 2023 9:39 PM EDT

Bank of Korea governor says ‘premature’ to talk about rate cuts

Bank of Korea Governor Rhee Chang-yong says it's too early to start talking about rate cuts.

The South Korean central bank was one of the first in Asia to pause its tightening cycle, spurring market speculation that it could soon begin cutting rates. But Rhee told CNBC's Chery Kang at the Asian Development Bank's annual meeting Incheon that those expectations are "premature."

"We made it clear, given that our core inflation is still well above our target, and we have good news, that our inflation is going below 4% in April, so it's going down," Rhee said Wednesday.

"But still, I think that given that it's above the target, we have to wait and see, it would be a little bit premature to talk about [a] pivot at this moment."

– Jihye Lee

Tue, May 2 2023 8:59 PM EDT

New Zealand's unemployment rate holds steady at 3.4% in first quarter

New Zealand's unemployment rate held steady at 3.4% for the first quarter, unchanged from the last quarter of 2022. That's slightly lower than economist expectations of 3.5%.

The unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points from 3.2% a year ago.

The country's labor force participation rate stood at 72%, up 0.2 percentage points from the previous quarter and one percentage point higher than the 71% recorded in the first quarter of 2022.

— Lim Hui Jie

Tue, May 2 2023 8:17 PM EDT

CNBC Pro: This global commercial real-estate stock is set to rise by 60%, Jefferies says

Jefferies expects shares of a global commercial real-estate stock to rise by more than 60% over the next 12 months.

The investment bank's prediction comes at a time when the global commercial real estate market has seen prices fall sharply over the past year.

However, the property firm is expected to escape the downturn as it nearly doubled the rent it charged its tenants, and office-space vacancy in the region it targets fell last year.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Ganesh Rao

Tue, May 2 2023 8:17 PM EDT

CNBC Pro: As lithium prices bounce, analysts love these stocks — giving one 155% upside

Prices of lithium, a key material used in electric vehicle batteries, have rebounded for the first time in months.

Analysts were generally bullish on the sector in the long term.

For investors looking to play the EV-related sector, CNBC screened for lithium and battery stocks with buy ratings from over 70% of analysts covering them, and average price target upside of at least 15%.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Weizhen Tan

Tue, May 2 2023 2:34 PM EDT

'March returns in May,' says Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs says investors haven't fully moved past March's bank crisis as banking stocks trade lower on Tuesday. The firm's analysts noted that following the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in March, the market's worries were quickly alleviated by a deposit injection at First Republic Bank.

"Since bottoming out at 3808 on Mar. 13, the S&P 5000 gained almost 10% [as of] Monday night on the back of relaxed banks tensions, as well as a strong earnings season (so far) and a growing consensus that the Fed will soon pause its year-long rate hiking cycle," several Goldman analysts wrote in a Tuesday note.

"But today, we appear to be seeing some return of the March concerns following JPM's announced acquisition of FRC Monday. Regional bank stocks are down 4% to 13%. [Managing director Richard] Ramsden sees the JPM acquisition as accretive and points out that the transaction highlights that G-SIBs will be allowed to bid on FDIC transactions even if they are above the deposit cap," the note continued.

— Hakyung Kim

Tue, May 2 2023 11:02 AM EDT

Former Fed official Rosengren advocates no rate hike

Eric Rosengren thinks his former colleagues at the Federal Reserve will be making a mistake if they raise interest rates again Wednesday.

The former Boston Fed president, who retired from the board in September 2021, told CNBC on Tuesday that turmoil in the banking industry and an economic slowdown should push policymakers to end the rate-hiking campaign that began in March 2022.

"My own view is that the economy is quite likely to slow down in the second half of the year and that it's not necessary at this point to be raising rates until we get a better view of what the second half of the year looks like," Rosengren said on "Squawk Box."

Traders in the futures market are pricing in a 96% chance that the Federal Open Market Committee approves a quarter percentage point rate hike when the two-day meeting ends, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tracker.

—Jeff Cox

Tue, May 2 2023 3:16 PM EDT

WTI Crude Oil settles at lowest levels since March

WTI Crude settled down 5.29% at $71.66, marking its lowest settle since Mar. 24, when it settled at $69.26. WTI Crude has declined 10.7% in 2023.

Brent crude and natural gas also settled lower, falling 5.03% and 4.49%, respectively. Brent crude has shed 12.33% year to date, closing at $75.32 on Tuesday. Meanwhile, natural gas has tumbled more than 50% in 2023.

— Hakyung Kim

Tue, May 2 2023 11:19 AM EDT

Oil prices drop on China factory data, economic outlook

Oil prices fell sharply Tuesday following an unexpected contraction in Chinese factory activity, reported Sunday, and ahead of further interest rate hikes expected from the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank this week.

Brent crude futures dropped 4.3% to $75.87 at 10:53 a.m. ET, while West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 4.4% to $72.34 — their lowest levels since late March.

The drops came despite news that OPEC oil output fell in April, according to a Reuters survey.

See Chart...
ICE Brent Crude

— Jenni Reid

Tue, May 2 2023 10:16 AM EDT

Job openings declined more than expected in March

Employment openings hit a nearly two-year low in March, a sign the jobs market is loosening up, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

Openings totaled 9.59 million, the lowest since April 2021 and below the FactSet estimate of 9.64 million, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

The Federal Reserve watches the JOLTS report closely for signs of labor slack. Declining job openings is a positive for inflation as it helps put less pressure on wage increases.

The full story can be found here.

—Jeff Cox

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