Asian shares mostly higher after wobbly day on Wall Street

Asian shares were mostly higher Thursday and the dollar rose to 130 yen after the Bank of Japan kept its near-zero interest rate stance unchanged.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.75% to 26,847.90 as the Japanese central bank downgraded its outlook for the world’s third-largest economy to take into account rising energy costs and uncertainties raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The dollar was trading at 128.43 yen late Wednesday. It started the year at about 115 yen.

Some Japanese officials have expressed concern over the yen’s weakness at a time when costs for imported oil, gas and other commodities are soaring. But the Bank of Japan says it intends to keep lending ultra-lax conditions to help support the sluggish economy even as the US Federal Reserve raises interest rates to counter surging inflation, prompting investors to sell yen to seek higher returns in dollar-denominated assets.

In its summary of the outlook for the economy, the BOJ said the risks were coronavirus outbreaks and “extremely high chief uncertainties over developments in the situation surrounding Ukraine and the associated developments in commodity prices, global and capital markets, and overseas.”

Chinese benchmarks were higher after sinking Wednesday despite a flurry of official commentary highlighting efforts to counter the impact of pandemic shutdowns in many cities.

The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.2% to 2,963.54 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 0.8% to 20,105.99.

Strict COVID-19 lockdown measures in China have added to concerns about slowing growth, disrupting the flow of industrial goods and other business activity in Shanghai, home of the world’s busiest port, and other industrial cities including Changchun and Jilin in northeast China.

Beijing has been mass testing this week as it decides on what degree of controls impose in the capital.

Elsewhere, the Kospi in Seoul added 1.1% to 2,667.49. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 surged 1.3% to 7,356.90.

Wall Street ended Wednesday with a lackluster finish as traders braced for more earnings reports from major US companies this week.

The S&P 500 saw most of a midday rally evaporate and wound up with a gain of just 0.2%, at 4,183.96. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also added 0.2%, to 33,301.93. The Nasdaq was barely changed at 12,488.93, while the Russell 2000 fell 0.3% to 1,884.04.

The indexes rallied to a strong finish late Monday only to slump on Tuesday. They are all down 1.5% or more so far this week.

Investors are focusing on the latest round of company earnings, which come amid lingering concerns about rising inflation and rising interest rates. Twitter, Apple and Amazon will report their results on Thursday.

Natural gas prices surged as much as 24% Wednesday in Europe and the euro weakened after Russia said it would cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. Natural gas and oil prices already were rising as the pandemic eased and demand increased, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has added to price increases.

Oil prices fell back Thursday. US benchmark crude oil lost 81 cents to $101.21 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 32 cents on Wednesday to $102.02 per barrel.

Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oil, shed 95 cents to $104.00 per barrel.

The euro slipped to $1.0523 from $1.0560.

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