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Stock market today: Asian shares drop after Wall Street sinks on rate worries

YURI KAGEYAMA
April 03, 2024

TOKYO (AP) -- Asian shares mostly declined Wednesday after Wall Street broke its record-breaking bull run with its worst day in weeks.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slid 0.8% in morning trading to 39,511.88. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 1.3% to 7,782.50. South Korea's Kospi dropped 1.4% to 2,714.18. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.1% to 16,753.82, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.2% to 3,070.04.

Analysts said worries were growing that anxieties that rattled Wall Street might spread to Asia, despite recent relatively positive economic signs from China.

"Investors are grappling with the possibility that this turbulence could mark the beginning of a more significant correction in the markets," said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

China has set an ambitious target of around 5% economic growth this year, seeking to move past recent troubles in the property sector and the lingering effects of pandemic-era disruptions.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 37.96 points, or 0.7%, to 5,205.81 for its worst day in four weeks. It was its second straight drop after setting an all-time high to close last week.

Other indexes did worse. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 396.61 points, or 1%, to 39,170.24 and likewise pulled further from its record. The Nasdaq composite fell 156.38, or 1%, to 16,240.45, and the small stocks in the Russell 2000 index tumbled 1.8%.

Health insurance companies led the market lower on worries about their upcoming profits after the U.S. government announced lower-than-expected rates for Medicare Advantage. Humana tumbled 13.4%. Meanwhile, Tesla dropped 4.9% after delivering fewer vehicles for the start of 2024 than analysts expected.

Traders have already drastically reduced their expectations for how many times the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates this year, halving them from a forecast of six at the start of the year. That would be in line with the three cuts that Fed officials themselves have hinted at.

Because the U.S. economy has remained stronger than expected, investors say the chances are rising that the Fed may deliver just two rate cuts this year. Gargi Chadhuri, chief investment and portfolio strategist, Americas, at BlackRock, suggests investors keep their bets spread across a wide range of investments, rather than "trying to time the market - or the Fed."

In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 4.35% from 4.33% late Monday.

The two-year yield, which moves more closely with expectations for Fed action, slipped to 4.69% from 4.71% late Monday.

High rates slow the economy by design, by making borrowing more expensive. They also hurt prices for investments by making it more attractive for investors to put money instead in safer alternatives. Bitcoin fell 5.4%.

Beyond worries about interest rates staying high, critics say the U.S. stock market has also simply grown too expensive after soaring more than 20% in six months. Companies will likely need to deliver strong growth in profits to justify such big moves.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added 3 cents to $85.18 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 10 cents to $89.02 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar rose to 151.61 Japanese yen from 151.54 yen. The euro cost $1.0775, up from $1.0776.

___

AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

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