Global stocks mixed in choppy trade amid inflation concerns

TOKYO (AP) — Global equities were mixed in choppy trading Thursday, as inflation concerns and the war in Ukraine left investors cautiously optimistic.

European stocks were mostly higher in early trading after a mixed session in Asia. Oil prices rose and US futures were higher.

The Japanese yen depreciated slightly against the US dollar.

The situation in Ukraine remained tense as Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to claim victory in the strategic port of Mariupol, even as he ordered his troops not to storm the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance on the iconic battlefield of the war.

France’s CAC 40 gained 1.5% in early trading to 6,727.22, while Germany’s DAX gained 1.1% to 14,516.80. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell less than 0.1% to 7,625.70. The Dow Jones industrials future rose 0.6% while the S&P 500 future was up 0.8%.

Markets focused on corporate earnings to see how companies are coping with rising inflation and cost pressures. Inflation has put pressure on a wide range of industries and on increasingly pressured consumers.

Investors were also expecting a roundtable on Thursday with U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Shanghai’s benchmark fell 2.3% to 3,079.81 after Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled no change in his government’s strict “zero COVID” policies despite their growing impact on the downturn in the economy.

Speaking at a forum of Asian leaders, Xi called for more stringent international efforts to tackle coronavirus outbreaks. He also said his government supports talks to resolve international disputes and opposes the use of sanctions.

He did not mention the weeks-long lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities or the costs of the strategy, but sought to reassure the world that the country is still committed to opening up its economy, Stephen said. Innes of SPI Asset Management in a comment.

“Chinese markets continue to underperform, weighed down by growth fears and the COVID-zero policy on the mainland, while US fears of delisting of dual-listed shares continue to cripple Hong Kong markets,” said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda in a report.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 1.2% to end at 27,553.06. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3% to 7,592.80. South Korea’s Kospi jumped 0.4% to 2,728.21. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 1.3% to 20,682.22.

New Zealand’s benchmark index edged down 0.1% after the government announced the inflation rate hit a 30-year high of 6.9%, driven by housing and the gas. Statistics New Zealand said the cost of building new homes rose 18% from a year earlier, while petrol prices rose 32%. The annual price increase was the highest since 1990, the agency said. Inflation rose in developed countries, including the United States, where it hit a four-decade high of 8.5% in March.

Rising prices prompted the Federal Reserve and other central banks, including New Zealand’s, to raise interest rates to lessen the impact of inflation. The Fed has already announced a quarter-percentage-point rate hike, and Wall Street expects a half-percent rate hike at its next meeting in two weeks.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 71 cents to $102.90 a barrel. It rose 0.2% on Wednesday and is now up nearly 40% for the year. Brent, the international standard, jumped 98 cents to $107.78 a barrel.

In currency trading, the US dollar fell from 127.89 yen to 128.11 Japanese yen. The euro traded at $1.0919, down from $1.0847.

Garland K. Long