Asian Stocks Down, China COVID Lockdowns, and Fed’s Hawkish Stance Dampen Mood

Asia Pacific stocks were mostly down on Wednesday morning, as a combination of mixed corporate earnings, the latest COVID-19 outbreak in China, and the prospect of aggressive U.S. Federal Reserve monetary policy all indicated a deteriorating economic outlook and dampened investor sentiment.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 slid 1.84% by 10:30 PM ET (2:30 AM GMT) and South Korea’s KOSPI fell 1.26%.

In Australia, the ASX 200 was down 0.66%, with the country’s consumer price index growing 2.1% quarter-on-quarter and 5.1% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2022.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.73%.

China’s Shanghai Composite was down 0.45% while the Shenzhen Component edged up 0.12%.

The ongoing risk aversion boosted sovereign bonds in Australia and New Zealand, while U.S. Treasuries pared some of a sharp rally on Tuesday that was led by shorter maturities. U.S. equity futures were on shaky ground after the S&P 500 fell to a six-week low and the Nasdaq 100 tumbled to levels last seen in 2021.

Concerns are also growing that Russia could halt gas flows to Europe and impact the bloc’s economic growth. It will follow through on its threat to halt flows to countries that refuse to pay for the fuel in Russian roubles by cutting off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday.

The ongoing fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 saw the euro hit its weakest level versus the greenback since 2017. Oil hit the $102 mark and gold was steady around the $1,905 mark, while Bitcoin nursed losses at around the $38,100 mark.

Meanwhile, earnings from companies including Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Texas Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ:TXN) also disappointed investors and dampened the market outlook further. Gains in Microsoft Corp . (NASDAQ:MSFT) in late trading on better-than-expected results lifted sentiment somewhat, however, and investors now await tech earnings from companies including Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).

All this dampened an investor mood already hit by the prospect of tighter Fed monetary policy and an economic slowdown in China.

“We know that sentiment is in a terrible state right now,” RBC Capital Markets LLC head of U.S. equity strategy Lori Calvasina told Bloomberg.

“This is a market that’s very, very confused. There’s just a real lack of conviction in anything people want to buy at this moment in time.”

The Bank of Japan will hand down its monetary policy decision on Thursday. The European Central Bank will follow with its economic bulletin later that day. The U.S. will also release data, including the GDP for the first quarter of 2022, on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia Pacific, China said it would step up infrastructure construction after Tuesday’s Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping. This is the government’s latest show of economic support as COVID-19-related lockdowns continue in parts of Shanghai and Beijing continues mass testing for the virus.