WORLD

Stock market today: Asian shares are mostly up as weak jobs data back hopes for an end to rate hikes

Dec 4, 2023, 11:24 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2023, 8:18 pm

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares advanced on Wednesday after most stocks slipped on Wall Street following a mixed set of reports on the U.S. economy.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.5% to 16,413.96 while the Shanghai Composite edged 0.1% higher, to 2,968.75.

The gains followed selloffs the day before amid worries about the health of China’s economy, the world’s second largest.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 added 1.7% to 33,339.26 and the Kospi in Seoul was up 0.6% at 2,509.04. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.5% to 7,166.10.

India’s Sensex gained 0.6% and the SET in Bangkok advanced 0.9%.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 edged 0.1% lower, to 4,567.18, for its first back-to-back loss since October. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2%, to 36,124.56, and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.3%, to 14,229.91.

U.S. stocks and Treasury yields wavered after reports showed that employers advertised far fewer job openings at the end of October than expected, while growth for services businesses accelerated more last month than expected.

That kept alive questions about whether the U.S. economy can pull off a perfect landing where it snuffs out high inflation but avoids a recession.

On Wall Street, KeyCorp fell 3.7% and led a slump for bank stocks after it cut its forecast for income from fees and other non-interest income. But gains of more than 2% for Apple and Nvidia, two of the market’s most influential stocks, helped to blunt the losses.

With inflation down from its peak two summers ago, Wall Street is hopeful the Federal Reserve may finally be done with its market-shaking hikes to interest rates and could soon turn to cutting rates. That could help the economy avoid a recession and give a boost to all kinds of investment prices.

Tuesday’s report showed that employers advertised just 8.7 million jobs on the last day of October, down by 617,000 from a month earlier and the lowest level since 2021.

A separate report said that activity for U.S. services industries expanded for the 41st time in the last 42 months, with growth reported by everything from agriculture to wholesale trade. Strength there has been offsetting weakness in manufacturing.

In the bond market, Treasury yields continued to sag further from the heights they reached during late October.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.17% from 4.26% late Monday, offering more breathing space for stocks and other markets. It had been above 5% and at its highest level in more than a decade during October.

The yield on the two-year Treasury, which more closely tracks expectations for the Fed, went on a jagged run following the economic reports. It fell from 4.61% just before the reports’ release to 4.57% and then yo-yoed before easing back to 4.55%.

Traders widely expect the Federal Reserve to hold its key interest rate steady at its next meeting next week, before potentially cutting rates in March, according to data from CME Group.

Fed officials have recently hinted that the federal funds rate may indeed already be at its peak. It’s above 5.25%, up from nearly zero early last year. But Fed Chair Jerome Powell and others have also warned Wall Street about being overzealous in its predictions about how early a cut could happen.

Lower yields have been one reason prices cryptocurrencies have been rising recently. Excitement about a possible exchange-traded fund tied to bitcoin, which would open it to new kinds of investors, has also helped send it above $43,000 recently.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil added 7 cents to $72.39 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 9 cents to $77.29 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 147.31 Japanese yen from 147.17 yen. The euro slipped to $1.0800 from $1.0802.

___

AP Business Writers Matt Ott and Stan Choe contributed.

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