Global stock markets were mixed Friday as traders weighed a range of issues including US debt ceiling hopes, high-level talks between Washington and Beijing, banking sector uncertainty and more signs of a slowing economy.
Investors hoping the Federal Reserve will finally take a breather from its long-running campaign of interest rate hikes have been left feeling a little more confident this week after data showed inflation on both a consumer and wholesale level continued to ease in April.
Their hopes were given a further boost Thursday by news that jobless claims last week hit their highest since October 2021, suggesting the labour market was showing some slack.
The Fed has long said it needed to see a softening in employment as well as a drop in inflation before it could consider ending its rate hike drive and look at a potential cut in borrowing costs.
“US economic data overnight continued the theme of tentative signs of a softening labour market and room for optimism about the inflation outlook,” said National Australia Bank’s Taylor Nugent.
“Caution on one week’s claims number is always well advised, but the incremental signal looks to be a more compelling trend higher.”
There was also some positive news out of Washington that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi met in Vienna this week, as the superpowers seek to temper tensions over a number of issues, particularly Taiwan.
The eight hours of talks over Wednesday and Thursday also covered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and capped an unofficial pause in high-level contact since the United States shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon earlier in the year. Both sides described the face-to-face as “candid, substantive and constructive”.
“The risk appetite of the stock market is likely to be lifted by the news of the US-China meeting,” Alvin Ngan, of Zhongtai Financial International, said.
“Overseas-listed Chinese stocks and the Chinese internet sector, of which foreign investors have relatively high exposure, are likely to get a boost.”
US-listed Chinese firms performed well in New York, with tech firms also helped by a strong earnings report from ecommerce giant JD.com. And the rally continued for the sector in Hong Kong, with JD.com up more than seven per cent and rival Alibaba 2.4 per cent higher.
But the gains were unable to help the city’s Hang Seng Index maintain early gains, while there were also losses in Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta and Taipei.
Still, Tokyo, Sydney, Wellington and Mumbai were all higher.
And London rose at the open as data showed the UK economy grew 0.1 per cent over the first quarter as output continues to be hit by high inflation and strikes.
Paris and Frankfurt were also in positive territory.
The broad losses followed another tepid lead from Wall Street, where the Dow and S&P 500 ended down as fears over the banking sector continued to weigh.
US regional lenders came under fresh pressure after PacWest noted in a filing that it was exploring strategic options, sparking a surge in withdrawals from worried customers.
It said total deposits dived almost 17 per cent in the first quarter, when the finance industry was rocked by the collapse of three local banks.
PacWest dived more than a fifth, while several other regional lenders including KeyCorp, Zions Bancorporation and Western Alliance Bancorporation took a hit.