Asia shares mostly fall, eyeing inflation, earnings, growth

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly lower on Friday after Wall Street retreated for a second day as market watchers considered earnings reports and various indicators about whether inflation is waning in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.3% to 27,650.80. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.7% to 7,438.50. South Korea's Kospi dropped 1.0% to 2,456.39. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.8% to 21,238.81, while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.6% at 3,250.85.

Shares in Mumbai, Taiwan and Singapore also declined.

China reported that its consumer inflation rate ticked up last month as demand revived due to the lifting of pandemic restrictions and travel and spending connected with the Lunar New Year, the country's biggest holiday.

Producer prices fell 0.8% in January after a 0.7% decline the month before. Consumer price inflation rose to 2.1% from a 1.8% climb in December.

Next week will bring the release of U.S. and British inflation updates, as well as U.S. retail sales and industrial production data. On Tuesday, Japan will report its economic growth figures for the final quarter of 2022.

Wall Street share prices dropped Thursday following another mixed set of profit reports from companies, amid rising expectations for interest rates.

The S&P 500 fell 0.9% to 4,081.50, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.7% to 33,699.88. The Nasdaq composite sank 1% to 11,789.58.

Stocks have been flipping from gains to losses and back again amid uncertainty about where interest rates and inflation are heading. A still-strong jobs market has investors buying more into the Federal Reserve’s forecast that it will hike rates a couple more times before holding them at a high level through this year. High rates can drive down inflation but also raise the risk of a recession and hurt investment prices.

“There's continuing evidence that the economy is stronger than people thought it was going to be,” said Thomas Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments. “The question is what is the economy’s ability to continue that resilience in the face of interest rates that are a lot higher than they were a year ago."

High inflation and worries about a slowing economy have already begun to hit corporate earnings, and big U.S. companies have been reporting relatively lackluster results for the end of 2022.

The Walt Disney Co. surprised the market when it reported stronger profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. It also said it will cut about 7,000 jobs as part of a plan to reduce its costs by $5.5 billion. Its shares fell 1.3% after being up more than 5% earlier in the morning.

Most of the high-profile companies that have announced layoffs have been in the technology industry, where companies acknowledged misreading the boom coming out of the pandemic and hiring too many people. But job cuts have also spread to other industries.

“Things have gotten good on the inflation front, but now I think the next cause of volatility is beginning to shift to recession fears,” said Brent Schutte, chief investment officer at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company.

Overall, though, the job market has remained resilient. Last week, 196,000 U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits. That was slightly more than the prior week, but it remained below the 200,000 level for a fourth straight week.

Another drop for Google's parent company, Alphabet, also weighed heavily on the market. It fell 4.4%, continuing its rough week amid worries about competition from Microsoft, which recently unveiled a new Bing search engine powered by artificial intelligence.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 41 cents to $77.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 41 cents to $78.06 on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international standard for pricing, fell 34 cents to $84.16 a barrel.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar inched up to 131.70 Japanese yen from 131.44 yen. The euro cost $1.0721, down from $1.0729.


AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter