Stock market today: Asian shares rise ahead of US inflation report, China closed for holiday

Japan Financial Markets
A person walks in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Tokyo. Asian shares mostly rose Tuesday, as investors watched for the latest indicators on U.S. inflation. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Japan Financial Markets
People stand in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Tokyo. Asian shares mostly rose Tuesday, as investors watched for the latest indicators on U.S. inflation. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Financial Markets Wall Street
FILE - Specialist Anthony Matesic works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Japan Financial Markets
An electronic stock board shows Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares mostly rose Tuesday, as investors watched for the latest indicators on U.S. inflation.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 2.2% in morning trading to 37,723.62. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged up nearly 0.1% to 7,619.20. South Korea's Kospi jumped 1.2% to 2,651.33. Trading was closed in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Japan’s producer price index data showed a 0.2% increase from a year ago, while remaining flat on-month.

“The tame number may still suggest limited passthrough to consumer prices and may offer room for the Bank of Japan to keep to its wait-and-see for now. Market expectations have been pricing for rate hike to come only in April 2024,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market analyst at IG.

Wall Street held relatively steady following its latest record-setting week. The S&P 500 slipped 4.77 points, or 0.1%, to 5,021.84 Monday, after closing Friday above the 5,000 level for the first time.

Most of the stocks in the index rose, but losses for Microsoft and other tech companies weighed on the index.

The weakness for tech also pulled the Nasdaq composite down by 48.12, or 0.3%, to 15,942.55. Earlier in the day, It had been hovering just above its all-time closing high set in 2021. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, meanwhile, rose 125.69, or 0.3%, to 38.797.38 to set its latest record.

Conditions were calm across markets, and yields were also stable in the bond market. The next big event for the market could be Tuesday’s update on inflation across the United States, which economists expect to show a drop back below the 3% level.

Worries have grown about how top-heavy the stock market has become, where the seven biggest companies have accounted for a disproportionate amount of the S&P 500’s rally to a record. If more companies aside from the group known as the “Magnificent Seven” can deliver strong profit growth, it could soften the criticism that the market has become too expensive.

Another worry for the market has been uncertainty about just how much danger lurks for the economy in the loans and other holdings banks have on their balance sheets that are tied to commercial real estate.

The widespread expectation, even among top U.S. government officials, is that weakness for office buildings and other commercial projects will mean at least some pain for banks. But no one can say how much for sure.

That’s why so much focus has been on New York Community Bancorp recently. It shocked investors two weeks ago when it announced a surprise loss for its latest quarter. Some of the pain was due to its acquisition of Signature Bank during the industry’s mini-crisis last year. But worries about commercial real estate also played a role.

New York Community Bancorp’s stock has roughly halved since that surprise report, but it held a bit steadier on Monday. It edged down by 0.2%.

An index measuring stock prices across the regional banking industry rose 1.8%.

In the bond market, yields were moving very little. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 4.16% from 4.18%, late Friday.

The two-year Treasury yield, which more closely tracks expectations for the Federal Reserve, held at 4.48%, where it was late Friday.

Inflation has been cooling enough that the Federal Reserve has hinted it may cut its main interest rate several times this year. Such cuts typically juice financial markets and the economy, and they would release pressure that’s built up since the Fed has taken its main interest rate to the highest level since 2001.

After earlier hoping cuts to rates could begin as soon as March, traders have since pushed their forecasts out to May or June. Reports showing the U.S. economy and job market remain remarkably solid, along with some comments from Fed officials, have been forcing the delays.

If the Fed ends up making traders wait even longer than expected for rate cuts, it could upset stock prices that have already shot upward on the assumption of lots of good news, according to Marc Dizard, chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management Group. Besides lower interest rates, that also includes stronger convictions for no recession for the U.S. economy, inflation continuing to come down and corporate profits growing more strongly.

"There isn’t a whole lot more than can really go right," he said.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude inched up 3 cents to $76.95 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 1 cent to $81.99 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar rose to 149.40 Japanese yen from 149.30 yen. The euro cost $1.0767, dow from $1.0774.

——

AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

 

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