Asian stocks up but investors fear recession

Asian equities were up on Monday after a rally on Wall Street last week, but analysts say fears of a recession due to surging inflation and Covid-driven supply chain woes still have investors worried.

World markets have been volatile for much of 2022, fuelled by uncertainty over supply chain snarls due to China’s lockdowns, inflation pressures and European anxiety over the Ukraine war.

Wall Street stocks closed Friday with a robust rally on tech-rich Nasdaq after a tumultuous week that saw markets fluctuate based on US inflation data and an ongoing slump in Chinese exports propelled by the country’s zero-Covid policy.

“The market continues to trade on very short-term recessionary signals. It is very ‘noisy,’ keeping intraday volatility high with 150–250-point swings (being) common,” said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.

“Indeed, this is the hallmark of a market filled with air pockets which have left more than a few investors licking their wounds.”

One of the main drivers of volatility is China’s continued lockdowns. Economic engine Shanghai in particular has been under strict virus restrictions since April, shuttering factories and pausing port activity.

Beijing’s staunch adherence to its zero-Covid strategy has reverberated across the world, snarling global supply chains, agitating commodity prices and spiking investor fears.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Monday announced retail sales had slumped by 11.1 percent — the lowest showing since March 2020 — and its industrial production also sank 2.9 percent on-year.

But it had some good news over the weekend, with Shanghai’s vice mayor announcing that a gradual reopening of businesses in the city would begin “in stages” from Monday.

Analysts at Charles Schwab investment bank said “global sentiment seems to be getting some relief” from even the suggestion of an easing.

Markets in Asia opened with a generally positive showing Monday, with Tokyo, Sydney, Singapore and Manila trading up throughout the day.

But in Hong Kong and Shanghai, equities were more mixed.

Economist Clifford Bennett of ACY Securities said “there is a very real risk, even likelihood of a triple Northern Hemisphere recession across the US, Europe and China simultaneously and virtually immediately”.

He added that all eyes will be on how the Federal Reserve acts in the coming months, specifically whether it will further tighten monetary policy to combat surging inflation.

“Regardless of the Fed’s action –- aggressive or mild, expect lower stock market values overall,” Bennett said.

– Key figures at around 0300 GMT –
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.2 percent at 19,852.93

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,076.10

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 26,492.29 (break)

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.3 percent at $110.16 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.2 percent at $109.22 per barrel

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0396 from $1.0417 at 2130 GMT Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2244 from $1.2262

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.91 pence from 84.92 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 128.88 yen from 129.19 yen

New York – Dow: UP 1.5 percent at 32,196.66 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 2.6 percent at 7,418.15 (close) –AFP