US stocks gain ahead of Fed meeting but Asia, Europe struggle

·4-min read
Community volunteers give haircuts to residents in a compound during Shanghai's Covid-19 lockdown on May 1, 2022, which has rattled economies and markets worldwide (AFP/LIu Jin) (LIu Jin)

European and Asian indices fell on Monday but Wall Street closed higher as markets worldwide brace for this week's Federal Reserve meeting, where the US central bank is set to hike rates amid worries it could spark a recession.

The positive sentiment in New York was a reversal from Friday, when major US indices finished a tough April by closing sharply lower as fears of higher interest rates, supply chain snarls and persistent inflation gripped markets.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq, having lost more than 13 percent in April for its worst monthly showing in 14 years, won the most in Monday's session with a 1.6 percent gain, while the Dow and S&P 500 increased more modestly.

Eurozone markets ended the session down, with Paris losing 1.6 percent and Frankfurt tumbling 1.2 percent. London was closed for a bank holiday.

Tokyo, Seoul, Mumbai, Manila, Sydney and Wellington all finished lower. Hong Kong and mainland Chinese markets were closed along with several other Asian markets.

"The markets remain skittish regarding an expected aggressive Fed monetary policy tightening cycle as the central bank is set to hike rates this week," analysts at Charles Schwab investment bank said.

"Moreover, global sentiment continues to be hampered by the ongoing war in Ukraine, the recent spike in interest rates, the rallying US dollar and slowing economic activity in China," they said.

Data released over the weekend showed Chinese manufacturing activity shrank last month at its fastest pace since the start of the pandemic as the government applies Covid-19 lockdowns in the biggest cities of the world's second-biggest economy.

The shockwaves were being felt in the United States, where an industry survey said factory activity slowed last month, with some firms blaming the restrictions in China.

While economic hub Shanghai remains locked down, Beijing has tightened virus controls in the capital, requiring clear Covid tests to visit public spaces.

This followed gloomy economic data in Europe on Friday showing that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was weighing on growth.

The struggles in China, the world's biggest crude importer, led to an early drop in prices of the commodity on demand concerns, offsetting worries about tighter supply as the EU eyes a ban on Russian oil over its invasion of Ukraine, though prices recovered later in the day.

The European Commission is preparing a sanctions text that could be put to the 27 member states as early as Wednesday, sources said.

The ban would be introduced over six to eight months to give countries time to diversify their supply, they added.

- Rate hike looms large -

Investors are looking ahead to the Fed's two-day meeting beginning Tuesday, in which the central bank is widely expected to hike rates by half a percentage point for the first time since 2000 to combat soaring prices.

With some commentators warning the Fed could eventually take rates up to three percent, there are also worries it could be too heavy handed and tip the US economy into recession.

"The Fed must make up for lost time and act quick and strongly as it faces inflation which keeps surprising as it rises," said Franck Dixmier, head of fixed income at Allianz Global Investors.

"The challenge in executing the normalization of its monetary policy is to ensure a soft landing of the US economy... while maintaining a dynamic labour market and above all avoiding triggering a recession."

- Key figures at around 2045 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 33,061.50 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.6 percent at 4,155.38 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 1.6 percent at 12,536.02 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 1.2 percent at 13,939.07 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.6 percent at 6,425.61 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.9 percent at 3,732.44 (close)

London - FTSE 100: Closed for a holiday

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 26,818.53 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: Closed for a holiday

Shanghai - Composite: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0506 from $1.0550 on Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2489 from $1.2578

Euro/pound: UP at 84.09 pence from 83.86 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 130.16 yen from 129.89 yen

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.5 percent at $105.20 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.5 percent at $107.67 per barrel

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