Asian shares observe tech, energy-led features on Wall Road

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares advanced in Asia on Thursday after a day of modest gains on Wall Street, led by buying of energy and technology stocks. Oil prices also rose.

Benchmarks rose in Tokyo, Sydney and Seoul but fell in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Other regional markets were higher.

In a quiet news week, investors are watching for a U.S. Labor Department report on Friday that economists forecast will show employers added more than 650,000 jobs last month. It is expected to yield fresh clues about the Federal Reserve’s next interest rate policy moves later this month, when the central bank holds its next meeting of policymakers.

Expectations of a strong increase in hiring have stoked worries about inflation and how world central banks may respond to it. The concern is that the global recovery could be hampered if governments and central banks have to withdraw stimulus to combat rising prices.

“Equity markets have taken signs that inflation is on the rise in their stride recently, and we suspect that they will continue to do so for some time yet,” Oliver Jones of Capital Economics said in a commentary.

Rapid price increases are outpacing the recovery of demand, partly due to supply bottlenecks, and will likely abate over time, he said.

News reports in Japan said the government is considering extra support for the economy as the country endures another bout of coronavirus outbreaks while it ramps up vaccinations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which are due to begin late next month.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4% to 29,058.11, while the Shanghai Composite index lost 0.1% to 3,593.27. South Korea’s Kospi jumped 0.8% to 3,251.39, helped by the rally in technology shares, which favor market heavyweights like Samsung Electronics.

The S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6% to 7,260.00, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.9% to 29,035.03.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 rose 0.1% to 4,208.12 as strength in technology, energy and real estate stocks offset a pullback in retailers and other companies that rely on consumer spending. Communication, industrial and materials stocks also fell. Treasury yields mostly eased after rising a day earlier.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.1% higher, to 34,600.38. The Nasdaq recovered from an early slide, adding 0.1% to 13,756.33.

Small-company stocks also notched modest gains. The Russell 2000 index rose 0.1% to 2,297.83.

Shares in movie theater operator AMC Entertainment nearly doubled in another bout of heavy trading as the company embraced its status as a “meme” stock being driven higher by hordes of individual investors. Other stocks like GameStop that have been championed on online message boards and social media also rose.

“Payrolls will hopefully help to clarify where the Fed stands,” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “Until then, it’s going to be hard for the market to find a real direction, with the exception of the small-cap meme stocks.”

Bond yields edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was steady at 1.59%.

Technology companies did much of the heavy lifting for the S&P 500. Chipmaker Nvidia rose 3.2%. Payments processor Visa gained 1.3% after giving investors an encouraging financial update.

Etsy jumped 7.1% for one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after the online crafts marketplace said it will buy Depop, an app that’s popular among young people looking to buy and sell used clothing and vintage fashions from the early 2000s.

Energy companies also made broad gains as oil prices ticked more than 1% higher. Occidental Petroleum rose 2.7% and Schlumberger led all S&P 500 stocks with a 7.7% gain.

U.S. benchmark crude gained 32 cents to $69.15 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up $1.11 to $68.83 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international pricing benchmark, rose 40 cents to $71.75 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was trading at 109.81 Japanese yen, up from 109.57 yen late Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.2190 from $1.2212.

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