By Associated Press
Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday, weighed down by concerns over disrupted supply chains and shipping, despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s first close above 36,000 points.
The Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -0.07% in Seoul gave up 1.2%, while Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.17% surged 0.9%. Stocks dipped in Singapore /zigman2/quotes/210597985/delayed SG:STI +0.18% , but advanced in Taiwan /zigman2/quotes/210597977/delayed TW:Y9999 +0.66% , Indonesia /zigman2/quotes/210597981/delayed ID:JAKIDX -0.72% and Malaysia /zigman2/quotes/210598052/delayed MY:FBMKLCI -0.80% . Tokyo markets were closed for a holiday.
Comments by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang about downward pressure on the economy also rattled investors.
In remarks carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, Li said the government needs to provide more support for smaller companies, reduce taxes and fees, “do a good job in ensuring the supply and price stability of electricity and coal and take strong measures to support manufacturing.”
Most Asian countries have also kept their monetary policy loose to deal with the fallout from pandemic-related shutdowns and travel restrictions. But some central banks have begun easing up on the accelerator in response to surging prices.
That includes New Zealand, where the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.4%, its lowest level in 14 years, despite a lockdown in the largest city of Auckland, Statistics New Zealand reported Wednesday. The country’s share benchmark /zigman2/quotes/211587880/delayed NZ:NZ50GR -0.26% rose 0.1%.
New Zealand’s Reserve Bank doubled the benchmark rate to 0.5% last month in its first hike in more than seven years. The jobless figures, along with high inflation numbers, will keep pressure on the nation’s central bank to continue raising interest rates.
Investors are awaiting comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy meeting Wednesday, when the central bank is expected to disclose plans to ease the extraordinary support measures to shore up markets and the economy during the pandemic.
The Fed’s chair, Jerome Powell, has signaled the Fed will announce after its policy meeting that it will start paring its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases as soon as this month. Those purchases are intended to keep long-term loan rates low to encourage borrowing and spending.
“Markets are largely in wait-and-see mode ahead of the U.S. Fed meeting. The question is not so much one of tapering, which at this point seems a foregone conclusion, but more about the timing of future rate hikes,” Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.
On Tuesday, the Dow /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.56% gained 0.4% to 36,052.63, while the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.08% extended its winning streak into a fourth day, climbing to 4,630.65. The Dow gained 0.4% to 36,052.63, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.59% added 0.3% to 15,649.60.
Bond yields slipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.54% from 1.57% late Monday.
On Wednesday, benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.52 to $82.39 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude , the basis for international pricing, shed $1.24 to $83.48 per barrel.
In other trading, the U.S. dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.1160% fell to 113.80 Japanese yen from 113.97 yen.