Asian stocks slide over global economy concerns

Asian stock markets have fallen sharply as soaring prices in America triggered fears the Federal Reserve will take tougher action to rein in inflation.

At the same time the US dollar strengthened to 135 Japanese yen for the first time in over two decades.

It comes as official figures showed on Friday that US inflation hit a more than 40-year high last month.

A warning about Covid-19 infections in Beijing also added to investor concerns about global economic growth.

On Monday, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index ended the day down by just over 3%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng closed 3.4% lower, while the Kospi in South Korea finished down 3.3%.

The Australian stock market was closed for the Queen’s birthday public holiday.

Global oil prices have also slipped with Brent crude falling by around $2 to just over $120 per barrel.

At the same time the Indian rupee has fallen to a new record low as it dropped below 78 to the US dollar.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin fell below $25,000 to its lowest level since December 2020.

  • Energy and food drive US inflation to 40-year high
  • US makes biggest interest rate rise in 22 years
  • How high could interest rates go?

On Friday, official data showed that prices in the US increased faster than expected last month, as rising energy and food costs pushed inflation to the highest level since 1981.

The annual inflation rate rose to 8.6% in May, the Labor Department said, after easing in April.

That confounded hopes that inflation had peaked, and instead put investors on alert that the Federal Reserve may take more robust action to tackle the issue.

The central bank is due to make its next policy announcement on Wednesday.

Markets currently see an 80% chance that it will raise its main interest rate by half a percentage point again.

Last month, the Federal Reserve announced its biggest interest rate increase in more than two decades, lifting its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point to a range of 0.75% to 1% after a smaller rise in March.

The rising cost of living has been squeezing households and putting pressure on policymakers to bring the issue under control.

A major issue in the US is the rising cost of fuel. On Saturday, as the price of petrol averaged more than $5 a gallon for the first time, according to the American Automobile Association.

However, investors are worried that the Fed and other major central banks may take aggressive action to contain rising prices and cause a sharp economic slowdown if interest rates are raised too high and too quickly.

Investors are also wary of the spread of Covid-19 in China after Beijing’s most populous district of Chaoyang announced on Sunday that three rounds of mass testing would be carried out to control a “ferocious” outbreak – 166 confirmed cases so far – that emerged at a bar in a nightlife and shopping area last week.

This has spurred concerns of more lockdowns, which threaten to slow the city’s economic recovery, just a short time after restrictions were eased.

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