Most Asian markets rise, energy firms hit by oil demand fears


Most Asian markets rose Thursday as forecast-beating earnings from Apple provided a much-needed bounce for the tech sector, though energy companies dropped on concerns about slowing US oil demand as supplies climb.

Investors ignored a retreat on Wall Street, where all three main indexes were weighed by disappointment that the Federal Reserve brushed off weak inflation and dented hopes for a possible interest rate cut, agency reports.

Regional traders were in buying mood as most of the region returned from the May Day break looking to jump back into technology after Apple surged 4.9 percent on better-than-expected quarterly results.

The result was welcome news after Google parent Alphabet, and Samsung Electronics, surprised on the downside and sparked a sharp sell-off in the sector.

Hong Kong-listed AAC Technologies jumped more than three percent and market heavyweight Tencent added 0.9 percent, while Apple supplier Foxconn was well up in Taipei and Samsung added 0.1 percent in Seoul.

The gains were reflected on stock markets with Hong Kong up 0.8 percent, Seoul rising 0.4 percent, Wellington surging 1.2 percent and Taipei 0.3 percent higher. Manila, Bangkok and Mumbai also rose but Sydney slipped 0.6
percent and Singapore was off 0.5 percent.

Tokyo and Shanghai were closed for public holidays. In early trade London fell 0.6 percent, Paris shed 0.7 percent and Frankfurt was off 0.2 percent.

Investors remain on edge over the global outlook, which has rattled markets in recent weeks, with the US economy performing broadly better than elsewhere.

The positive performance in Asia came despite the negative lead from New York, where traders were jolted by Fed boss Jerome Powell’s assessment of recent weak inflation as being only “transitory”.

– Powell disappoints –

The comments came after the Fed’s latest policy meeting and sank faint hopes the bank would announce a rate cut later in the year. It also went against a call from Donald Trump to ease borrowing costs to help bolster the
economy.

OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya said there was little chance of such a move any time soon.

“The press conference delivered a clear message that rate cuts are not happening anytime soon as inflation should pick up,” he said in a note. “The expectations for healthier growth later in the year, however, suggest
the downside risks are fading. If we see this patient period end with stronger momentum, the Fed may need to reconsider tightening if we do see that pick up with inflation.”

JP Morgan Asset Management global market strategist Kerry Craig added: “Powell may have to work on his bedside manner. In this case, the patient (i.e. markets) thought their diagnosis would merit stronger medicine, but instead all they got was a prescription to ‘be patient’.”

Adding to the upbeat mood was optimism over the China-US trade talks, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin describing a high-level two-day meeting in Beijing as “productive”.

Chinese negotiators head to Washington next week for another round, with CNBC citing unnamed sources as saying a deal could be signed next Friday.

The Fed’s refusal to hint at a rate cut pushed the dollar up against the yen and most higher-yielding currencies, though it was slightly lower against the pound and euro.

Oil extended losses after US crude inventories and production jumped, overshadowing concerns about the end of US waivers on countries buying Iranian oil and Venezuela’s deepening political crisis. The drop in crude prices hit energy firms, with CNOOC down two percent in Hong Kong and PetroChina 1.6 percent off while Woodside Petroleum and Santos tumbled in Sydney.

– Key figures around 0810 GMT –

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.8 percent at 29,944.18 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: Closed for holiday

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: Closed for holiday

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent at 7,343.39

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3053 from $1.3045 at 2050 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 111.61 from 111.16

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1195 from $1.1192

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 34 cents at $63.26 per barrel

Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN 39 cents at $71.79 per barrel (new contract)

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.6 percent at 26,430.14 (close)