WORLD

Stock market today: Asian stocks are mixed after Wall Street edges to more records

Jun 18, 2024, 12:08 AM | Updated: 9:42 pm

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed on Wednesday after U.S. benchmarks ticked to more records following the latest signs that the U.S. economy may be slowing without falling into recession.

U.S. futures were mixed and oil prices were little changed.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.2% to 38,575.54 as Japan’s trade data for May showed exports rose 13.5% while imports were up 9.5% from a year earlier, pushed higher by rising prices and the weaker value of the yen against the U.S. dollar.

Minutes from the Bank of Japan’s latest policy meeting disclosed a debate among its decision makers over whether the yen’s weakness may push inflation still higher. Governor Kazuo Ueda has hinted at raising the benchmark interest rate in coming months, depending on economic data at the time.

“Moves in the Nikkei have reflected much indecision in place, with the index trading in a broad consolidation phase thus far,” IG Asia said in a commentary.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 2% to 18,264.51 while the Shanghai Composite index lost 0.3% to 3,020.03 after the head of China’s securities watchdog said at a financial forum in Shanghai that the agency would be enhancing oversight of all financial activities to prevent potential risks.

In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.2% lower to 7,764.30. South Korea’s Kospi surged 1% to 2,792.14.

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s Taiex gained 1.8%, while Bangkok’s SET fell 0.1%.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 added 0.3% to 5,487.03, setting an all-time high for the 31st time this year. The Nasdaq composite edged up by less than 0.1% to 17,862.23. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.2% to 38,834.86.

Nvidia once again was the star, gaining 3.5% and acting as the strongest force pushing the S&P 500 upward. It lifted its total market value further above $3 trillion, again.

Nvidia’s chips are helping to develop AI, which proponents expect to change the world as much or more than the internet, and demand for its chips has proven to be shockingly voracious. Nvidia’s revenue routinely triples every quarter, and its profit is rocketing at even more breathtaking rates. Its stock is up nearly 174% this year, and Nvidia alone was responsible for nearly a third of the S&P 500’s entire gain for the year through May.

Of course, a potential danger of having a handful of superstars responsible for most of the U.S. stock market’s run to records is a more fragile market. If more stocks were participating, it could be a signal of a healthier market.

The Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose 0.1% in May, below the pace that economists projected, while April sales were revised downward — a 0.2% decline, from unchanged. Sales rose 0.6% in March and 0.9% in February. That comes after sales fell 1.1% in January, dragged down in part by inclement weather.

The weaker-than-expected data could be a warning signal that the main engine of the U.S. economy, spending by households, is cracking. Inflation is still high, even if it’s slowed since its peak, and lower-income households in particular are struggling to keep up with the more expensive prices.

Still, a survey of global fund managers by Bank of America showed they’re the most optimistic about stocks since the autumn of 2021, with relatively little hiding out in cash and allocations heavy to stocks. Fewer managers are also calling for a “hard landing” where the economy tumbles into a bad recession.

In other dealings early Wednesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil was unchanged at $80.71 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude rose 2 cents to $85.35 per barrel.

The dollar rose to 157.87 Japanese yen from 156.87 yen. The euro slipped to $1.0737 from $1.0740.

___

AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

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