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Thursday February 2nd, 2023 2:59AM

World shares slip as markets brace for more rate hikes

By The Associated Press
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Shares opened lower in Europe after a day of declines for most Asian markets, as investors braced for another interest rate hike this week by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Britain was observing a day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II. Japan’s markets were closed for a holiday.

Germany's DAX lost 0.3% to 12,701.41 while the CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.9% to 6,023.55. The future for the S&P 500 was down 0.6% while the contract for the Dow industrials was 0.5% lower.

Markets have been on edge because of stubbornly high inflation and the increases in interest rates being used to fight it. The fear is that the Fed and other central banks might overshoot their policy targets, triggering a recession.

Most economists forecast that the Fed will jack up its primary lending rate another three-quarters of a point when the central bank’s leaders meet this week.

“Fact is, hawkish expectations built on the ‘hot under the hood’ U.S. inflation print means that markets have good reason to be braced for headwinds amid prospects of higher (for longer) rates; and arguably ‘higher for longer’ USD (dollar) as well,” Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1% to 18,565.97 while the Shanghai Composite index shed 0.4% to 3,115.60. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gave up 0.3% to 6,719.90. In Seoul, the Kospi sank 1.1% to 2,355.66.

Japan’s central bank meets Wednesday and Thursday amid rising pressure to counter a sharp decline in the yen's value against the dollar. That has raised costs for businesses and consumers, who must pay more for imports of oil, gas and other necessities.

However the Bank of Japan has held firm so far in maintaining an ultralow benchmark rate of minus 0.1% in hopes of stimulating investment and spending.

On Friday, a stark warning Friday from FedEx about rapidly worsening trends in the economy gave investors more to worry about. The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, while the Nasdaq lost almost 1%. The Dow lost almost half a percent.

The S&P 500 sank 4.8% for the week, with much of the loss coming from a 4.3% rout on Tuesday following a surprisingly hot report on inflation.

All the major indexes have now posted losses four out of the past five weeks.

FedEx sank 21.4% for its biggest single-day sell-off on record Friday after warning investors that its fiscal first-quarter profit will likely fall short of forecasts because of a drop-off in business. The package delivery service is also shuttering storefronts and corporate offices and expects business conditions to further weaken.

Higher interest rates tend to weigh on stocks, especially the pricier technology sector. The housing sector is also hurting as interest rates rise. Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates climbed above 6% last week for the first time since the housing crash of 2008. The higher rates could make an already tight housing market even more expensive for American homebuyers.

Recent U.S. government reports showed that prices for just about everything but gas are still rising, the job market is still red-hot and consumers continue to spend, all of which give ammunition to Fed officials who say the economy can tolerate more rate hikes.

In other trading Monday, U.S. benchmark crude lost $1.50 to $83.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It edged up 1 cent to $85.11 per barrel on Friday.

Brent crude oil gave up $1.30 to $90.05 per barrel.

The dollar strengthened to 143.41 Japanese yen from 142.94 yen. The euro slipped to 99.82 cents from $1.0014.

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