Asian shares advance as investors await US growth data

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Wednesday as inflation fears eased and investors looked ahead to U.S. data that are expected to show economic growth accelerating.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced.

Overnight, Wall Street’s S&P 500 index slipped 0.2%, giving up some of the previous day’s 1% gain.

Investors worry stronger inflation might prompt governments and central banks to roll back economic stimulus. They have been reassured by comments from U.S. Federal Reserve officials that they see no need yet to change course.

“Inflationistas look like they might be ready to throw in the towel,” said Edward Moya of Oanda in a report.

Investors also have been encouraged by stronger U.S. corporate profits and consumer spending. That has kept the U.S. stock market near record highs and boosted optimism in global markets.

Data due out Thursday are expected to show the biggest global economy accelerated in the first three months of this year after expanding at an annual rate of 4.3% in 2020’s final quarter. Economists expect a huge rebound this year following the deepest slump since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5% to 3,599.07 while Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 added 0.2% to 28,604.47. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.9% to 29,162.48.

The Kospi in Seoul was unchanged at 3,171.67 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.1% to 7,122.40. New Zealand declined, while markets in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia were closed for holidays.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 declined to 4,188.13 after spending much of Tuesday wavering between gains and losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.2% to 34,312.46. The Nasdaq fell less than 0.1% to 13,657.17.

Financial, energy and health care stocks accounted for much of the decline.

Moderna rose 3.1% after the drugmaker said its COVID-19 vaccine was found to be effective in children aged 12 to 15.

Technology and communication stocks gained. So did big retailers, cruise lines and other companies that rely on consumer spending.

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In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 6 cents to $66.01 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 2 cents on Tuesday to $66.07 per barrel. Brent crude, the basis for international prices, was oil for July delivery rose 19 cents to $68.65 a barrel.

The dollar fell to 108.72 Japanese yen from 108.79 yen. The euro rose to $1.2255 from $1.2213.

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