TOKYO – Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Thursday after the Federal Reserve indicated it might ease off economic stimulus earlier than previously thought.
Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul fell while Shanghai gained after Fed policymakers, who previously forecast no interest rate hikes before 2024, estimated their benchmark rate would be raised twice by late 2023. The Fed also indicated it sees the U.S. economy improving faster than expected.
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index fell 0.5% on Wednesday after Fed projections showed some of its board members expect short-term interest rates to rise by half a percentage point by late 2023. Ultra-low rates from the Fed and other central banks have propelled a global stock market rebound from last year's plunge amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Fed may have delivered a more hawkish message for markets than many would have expected,” Yeap Jun Rong of IG said in a report. Still, Yeap said, differing views among board members suggests “much will still depend on how the economic recovery will play out.”
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 1.1% to 28,965.07 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off less than 0.1% at 28,434.62. The Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.2% at mid-morning at 3,525.67.
The Kospi in Seoul sank 0.5% to 3,261.05 and Australia's S&P-ASX 200 shed 0.4% to 7,357.90. New Zealand, Singapore and Jakarta declined while Bangkok advanced.
The Fed's announcement Wednesday reflected growing confidence in the U.S. economy as more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus and business activity revives.
Investors have been worried the Fed and other central banks might feel pressure to withdraw stimulus to cool rising inflation. Fed officials have said they believe that inflation will be short-lived, a stance they repeated Wednesday.
Fed chairman Jerome Powell said any changes are some way off but conditions have improved enough to start discussing when to slow bond purchases. The Fed is buying $120 billion a month to inject money into financial markets and keep longer-term interest rates low.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell to 4,223.70 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.8% to 34,033.67. The Nasdaq composite shed 0.2%, to 14,039.68.
In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 1.55% from 1.50% late Tuesday. The two-year yield, which moves more closely with expectations for Fed policy, rose to 0.20% from 0.16%.
In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 64 cents to $71.51 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 3 cents on Wednesday to $72.15. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, shed 70 cents to $73.69 per barrel in London. It gained 40 cents the previous session to $74.39.
The dollar gained to 110.66 Japanese yen from Wednesday's 110.50 yen. The euro fell to $1.2000 from $1.2016.