China's Covid lockdowns have sparked fears about global supply chains

Hong Kong (AFP) - Asian stocks were mixed on Wednesday, following a volatile day on Wall Street with investors concerned about surging inflation and see-sawing crude prices.

Equities have been on a roller-coaster ride in recent weeks, fuelled by worries about inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the impact of China’s Covid-19 lockdowns on global supply chains.

Global investors were spooked by China’s sinking April exports – the lowest in almost two years – as well as data showing its consumer inflation had risen at the quickest pace in nearly half a year.

Some are preparing for the worst.

“Equity investors are positioning for a recession; that pressure will remain acute until they see calming in rate volatility,” said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.

“The market seems to be fighting too many things to find its footing… The unavoidable growth concerns related to China are leaving a colossal contagion footprint across a plethora of global assets.”

Millions across China – particularly in its economic engine Shanghai – have been under lockdown for weeks, while Covid restrictions have also crept up in the capital Beijing.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said Beijing’s zero-Covid strategy is not sustainable.

The strict policy has shut down work at ports and factories while inciting rare outrage from many Chinese people forced to stay at home with no end in sight.

In New York, the Dow fell for the fourth straight day at Tuesday’s close, while the broader S&P 500 edged up. The Nasdaq jumped one percent.

Asian markets were also mixed Wednesday.

Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney rose, but Seoul and Singapore dipped.

In early European trade, however, London, Paris and Frankfurt made slight gains.

All eyes are now on the release Wednesday of the US consumer price index report for April.

- Inflation and oil -

Sentiment on trading floors has been buoyed by US President Joe Biden saying his administration is discussing lifting trade tariffs on China to try and control inflation.

“That has given US equity futures a leg up today,” Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a note on Wednesday.

“However, even if we may be nearing the top of inflation, that doesn’t mean it will suddenly drop.”

Crude continued to go on a ride, with WTI rebounding over the $100 dollar a barrel mark on Wednesday.

“Energy traders won’t forget how tight the oil market is,” said Edward Moya, another OANDA senior market analyst.

“Everything in the past 48 hours seems to have turned bearish for oil prices as EU sanctions on Russian energy have completely stalled and as the US dollar rallies over economic growth concerns.”

- Key figures at around 0830 GMT -

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.9 percent at 19,824.57 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 3,058.70 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 1.0 percent at 7,317.22

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 26,213.64 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP 2.8 percent at $105.41 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.9 percent at $102.72 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0570 from $1.0534 at 1630 GMT Tuesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2363 from $1.2332

Euro/pound: FLAT at 85.49 pence from 85.49 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 129.87 yen from 130.41 yen

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 32,160.74 (close)