Asian stocks were broadly lower on Friday and U.S. equity futures struggled for direction as investors fret about the war in Ukraine, Covid-19 lockdowns in China and the Fed’s plan for aggressive policy tightening.
The dollar extended gains against the Japanese yen after Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said the U.S. central bank is “behind the curve” on interest rates and he favors raising policy rates to 3-3.25 percent in the second half of 2022.
Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and his Atlanta counterpart Raphael Bostic also backed bigger interest rate hikes to contain inflation.
Geopolitical tensions persist, with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warning that the Ukraine conflict could last for years. European Union countries have approved new punishing sanctions against Russia, including an EU embargo on coal imports.
Gold moved in a tight range while oil was poised for a 3 percent weekly drop as the International Energy Agency listed members’ contributions to a 120-million-barrel release of crude and oil products from emergency stockpiles.
China’s Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.1 percent after data showed the country’s forex exchange reserves fell in March. On the Covid-19 front, Shanghai reported more than 21,000 daily cases, casting doubt on President Xi Jinping’s stringent zero-tolerance strategy.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 0.3 percent as Chinese tech stocks declined for a third day in view of Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s decision to shut its game streaming service.
Japan’s Nikkei dropped 0.3 percent and headed for a weekly loss of nearly 3 percent.
Australian markets bucked the weak trend, with the benchmark S&P ASX 200 rising half a percent, led by gains in the mining and energy sectors.
South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.1 percent while shares in New Zealand were little changed.
Overnight, U.S. stocks ended a choppy session higher and the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note hit a three-year high, as investors pondered the outlook for inflation and interest rates.
The Dow edged up 0.3 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index inched up marginally and the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent.
European stocks gave up early gains to end lower on Thursday after the release of relatively hawkish minutes from the March 9-10 ECB policy meeting.
Policymakers appeared keen to roll back stimulus and argued that conditions for lifting rates had either been met or were about to be met.
The pan European Stoxx 600 eased 0.2 percent. The German DAX and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 both dropped around half a percent while France’s CAC 40 index slipped 0.6 percent.
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