Asian markets tumble amid worries about earnings, Fed rate hike

TOKYO — Asian shares declined Monday after U.S. stocks ended last week on a tumble as global markets’ expectations for higher interest rates continued to set the tone.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225

lost 1.9% in morning trading and South Korea’s Kospi

slipped 1.4%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng

dropped 2.6%, while the Shanghai Composite

shed 2.4%. Benchmark indexes in Singapore

and Indonesia

declined. Trading was closed in Australia for Anzac Day, a national holiday.

The news that Emmanuel Macron won the run-off French presidential election over the weekend, clinching a second term as was widely expected, reassured markets that France won’t abruptly shift course in the midst of the war in Ukraine.

But a significant show from contender Marine Le Pen, a populist and nationalist, served as a reminder of how fragile that situation might be, analysts said. Le Pen pledged to dilute French ties with the EU, NATO and Germany, and spoke out against EU sanctions on Russian energy supplies.

Rising COVID-19 cases in China are setting off worries about more pandemic lockdowns that would crimp economic recoveries in the region. Other nations are also dealing with economic woes related to COVID-19, such as the absence of tourism revenue in Japan, where cases are still going up and down while it gradually opens its borders, but only to business travelers.

Investors are also watching profit reports from companies, including Japanese big names that are coming in weeks ahead. Several reports from U.S. companies, which have already been released, have been disappointing, contributing to the fall that ended last week on Wall Street.

What the U.S. Federal Reserve might do is high on investors’ minds. The chair of the Federal Reserve has indicated the central bank may hike short-term interest rates by double the usual amount at upcoming meetings, starting in two weeks. The Fed has already raised its key overnight rate once, the first such increase since 2018.

The S&P 500

fell 2.8% Friday to 4,271.78, marking its third losing week in a row. The Dow

dropped 2.8% to 33,811.40, its biggest drop in 18 months. The Nasdaq

lost 2.6%, closing at 12,839.29. The Dow and Nasdaq also posted losses for the week.

“Coming after the heavy sell-off in Wall Street to end last week, overall risk appetite in the region may come under pressure as well,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

Markets around the world are feeling similar pressure on rates and inflation, particularly in Europe as the war in Ukraine pushes up oil, gas and food costs.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude

lost $2.91 to $99.16 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude
the international standard, fell $2.93 to $103.72 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar

edged down to 128.51 Japanese yen from 128.59 yen.