TOKYO — Asian shares were mostly lower Friday in muted trading, as investors kept an eye on inflation and awaited the outcome of a Communist Party congress in China.
Benchmarks fell in most regional markets but rose in Mumbai.
China’s ruling party congress is expected to wrap up Saturday with an endorsement of leader Xi Jinping remaining in office indefinitely. The meeting, held every five years, sets the national agenda for the next five and can send signals of possible changes in policy direction. One change apparently absent from the agenda is an end to severe “zero COVID” rules that look likely to continue disrupting life and business activity for months to come.
In other developments, Japan‘s core consumer prices rose 3.0% in September from a year earlier, according to government data released Friday. That was the highest increase in eight years. It would also have been the highest in more than 30 years if the impact of introducing and raising the consumption tax was excluded.
The Bank of Japan has kept an ultra-low interest rate policy, while the Federal Reserve and other central banks have been raising rates to counter surging prices. Until recently, the Japanese central bank had devoted its efforts to fending off deflation, or the continued downward spiraling of prices.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar rose to 150.38 Japanese yen from 150.09 yen, adding to pressure on the BOJ to tweak its monetary policy since a weaker yen amplified rising prices due to the higher costs for imports. The euro was little changed at 97.76 cents, inching down from 97.87 cents.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 declined 0.4% in afternoon trading to 26,892.67. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.8% to 6,676.80. South Korea’s Kospi edged down 0.3% to 2,212.61. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.8% to 16,157.32, while the Shanghai Composite gained 0.2% to 3,041.21. Shares rose 0.4% in Mumbai.
“The overall mood remains cautious, with the paring of gains in Wall Street and yields trending higher on a more hawkish policy outlook,” Yeap Jun Rong, a market strategist at IG in Singapore, said in a report.
Treasury yields have risen to multiyear highs, a trend that’s helped push rates higher on mortgages and other loans. The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 4.23% from 4.14% late Wednesday and is at its highest level in 14 years. The yield on the two-year Treasury, which tends to track expectations for future Federal Reserve action, rose to 4.61% from 4.56%.
Investors remain concerned about inflation, since higher interest rates tend to discourage borrowing and investments, slowing economic activity. That could tip economies into recession.
Stocks on Wall Street lost ground on Thursday.
The S&P 500 fell 0.8% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.3%. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.6%, while the Russell 2000 index lost 1.2%.
Corporate earnings remain a big focus for Wall Street, and the results have been mixed so far.
IBM rose 4.7% after its third-quarter earnings and revenue topped analysts’ forecasts. AT&T jumped 7.7% after also reporting strong results.
Tesla fell 6.6% after saying it will miss its target for vehicle deliveries this year. Union Pacific dropped 6.8% after the railroad operator predicted slower growth, suggesting that the economy may be slowing down. Rival CSX fell 3%. American Airlines fell 3.8% after reporting its latest results.
Allstate slumped 12.9% after giving investors a disappointing financial update.
The U.S. employment market remains strong, with the latest government data showing the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week and remains historically low.
The healthy jobs market is a sticking point since it suggests the Fed will have to persist in raising interest rates. The central bank has raised its key interest rate to a range of 3% to 3.25%. Just over six months ago, it was near zero.
The increases are putting pressure on other areas of the economy, including the housing market, where mortgage rates are now at 15-year highs. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the key 30-year rate ticked up this week to 6.94% from 6.92% last week.
In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 8 cents to $84.43 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 1 cent on Thursday to $84.51 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 2 cents to $92.36 a barrel.